Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education

Online Training to become a registered Pet Chaplain®
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Posted on Aug 17, 2018

Join the interfaith dialog with fellow chaplains on the Anam Cara discussion forum! Anam Cara maintains a collegial community among students and graduates of the Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education. Registered chaplains engage and stay informed through Anam Ca...

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Posted on Aug 2, 2018

A registered Pet Chaplain® is trained to provide interfaith, non-denominational pastoral support and prayers for pets and their owners. Whether you have lost a special animal or need prayerful support for a pet who is sick, chaplains can provide supportive listening, sympathy,...

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Posted on Aug 1, 2018

A trained Pet Chaplain® is qualified to conduct every sacred pastoral duty, including conducting a memorial service to honor the life of your special pet, a Blessing of the Animals for your church or community group, and one-on-one support for your loss.

Posted on Feb 7, 2018

Apply now to become a registered Pet Chaplain® and help people who are grieving for animals. We are currently accepting applications for the spring 2019 course, which will run from Sunday, Feb. 3 to Sunday, March 30, 2019.

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Posted on Nov 7, 2017

Are you mourning the loss of a pet? Do you need someone to talk with about it? Someone who understands? Someone who mourns the loss of their pet too? The SPCA Pet Loss Support Group in Raleigh, NC, may help. The group meets every 3rd Sunday of the month from 3:30-5:...

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  • On working with clients...

    “I feel like I have gained the ability to recognize the spiritual suffering that people experience upon losing their beloved pet. I learned to put myself inside the skin of others and to suffer side by side with grieving pet parents.” – Rachel Geller, EdD, Cat Behavior Counselor and Certified Humane Education Specialist
  • On the quality of the class...

    "I thought the training was fantastic. Very comprehensive materials presented by a knowledgeable professional with years of experience in this field. I would highly recommend this course for anyone who is interested in pursuing pet chaplaincy!" – Kelly Slaybaugh, Seminary Student

Training Program Overview

The Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education is a nonprofit organization that trains individuals and groups in pastoral care to support people who grieve the loss of animals.

Pastoral care is a proven model of emotional and spiritual support that can be found in all cultures and religious traditions. The work of our chaplains is non-denominational. We work with all grieving people, respectful of all spiritual beliefs and practices, including atheist and agnostic. We believe that bereavement care should mirror the spiritual and emotional needs of grieving pet owners.

The grief support provided by a trained chaplain uses many of the same tools employed by clinical grief counselors. But a chaplain brings something more to the table: the skill and knowledge to address a griever’s spiritual questions. Death often leads to a spiritual conversation. As James Herriot, British surgeon and author of All Creatures Great and Small, observed, “If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”

Many people are in deep spiritual and emotional need. We grieve for animals, and we often grieve alone. In Western culture, such losses are disenfranchised, which means they’re ignored or trivialized, so grieving people lack social acknowledgement and don’t receive the social status of “the bereaved.” Our grief-care training is focused on the unique needs of people who experience the loneliness, isolation, and alienation of disenfranchised grief.  

We believe that an active, pastoral role of Pet Chaplain®, ministering to human grief and loss, with care and respect for others, is powerful, positive and effective. And we believe knowledge is power. As Marine Biologist Sylvia Earle said, “Knowing is the key to caring, and with caring there is hope that people will be motivated to take positive actions.”

In our program, you’ll study the latest theories on grief, bereavement, mourning, and the human-animal bond. You’ll gain insight into the experience of human-animal attachment – biophilia – and related cultural influences on human beliefs about death, loss and spirituality. You’ll also learn practical grief interventions. Our trainers will teach you how to take a calm and confident pastoral lead in potentially stressful and emotional social circumstances. You'll become fluent in the language of pastoral care and learn to listen to a grieving person's with a new level of insight and compassion.

Our staff members have more than 20 years combined experience in hands-on pastoral care for grieving people. The founder, Dr. Robert Gierka, holds a doctorate in adult education with a specialization in anthrozoological bereavement as well as decades of experience as a practicing chaplain.

The 8-week program includes online lectures in combination with reading and writing assignments and a weekly two-hour video conference in which participants discuss the topics and share their personal experiences working with grieving people. Class size is very small – no more than six participants per class – so you can be sure to get personalized attention.

You’ll also discover new friendships and the bond of a shared calling with your classmates. When you finish the program, you can choose to add your contact information to the AVPE registry of chaplains, and you’ll be able to participate in an online discussion forum with other practicing chaplains.

This training program is provided free of charge, because pastoral care is our passion. We are now accepting applications for our spring cohort beginning February 3, 2019. Admissions are limited and applications are carefully reviewed to ensure a high-quality, engaged cohort.

To learn more or apply to our online training program, read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Thank you for your interest.

Dr. Rob Gierka, Pet Chaplain®
Founder and Program Director
Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education
Disclaimer: Chaplains supply the Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education (AVPE) with information about their education, professional experience and character. The AVPE reviews, but does not routinely verify information supplied by chaplains for posting on the AVPE web site. The AVPE conducts cursory reference checks on chaplains. The AVPE recommends that parties contact chaplains directly to review their qualifications with them.

Copyright © 2018 Association for Veterinary Pastoral Education Inc. All rights reserved. Pet Chaplain® and Pet Chapel® are registered service marks.

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