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.
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.
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
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 Educationinfo@avpe.org
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.