Reiki Program at an Animal Shelter

Reiki master Dona Duke‘s first guest post shared her experience practicing on Whippets in an animal shelter where she has since organized a formal Reiki program. Here is her update.

Reiki Rescue Dog ClancyReiki Treatment for Rescue Animals
by Dona M. Duke

A lot has happened since I wrote about the Whippets.

Since then, all of the Whippets, including the puppies, have been adopted into loving homes.

And we now have a Reiki program at our Ann Arbor, Michigan shelter, Humane Society Huron Valley.

More than 10,000 animals pass through the shelter annually. We are not able to offer Reiki treatment to all of them, so the behavioral department generates a list of animals they feel will immediately benefit the most from Reiki treatment.

Treatments are usually half an hour per animal but can last as long as 90 minutes.

The shelter records every animal that receives Reiki treatment, mostly dogs and cats, but also an occasional bunny or ferret. That information is placed in the animal’s chart and given to the adopters.

The behavioral department records the reason for referring an animal for Reiki treatment, such as fear, anxiety, aggressiveness, malaise, surgery, or heart worm treatment, and also records any changes post Reiki.

There is no limit to how many Reiki treatments an animal receives. An Irish Wolfhound was near death from starvation when he was recovered and brought to us. I gave him daily treatments  for ten days and then twice weekly as he improved in all around health and weight gain. His lab tests showed significant recovery including normal body temperature and improved pancreatic, liver and kidney function.

Organizing the Reiki program

It took an entire year to get the Reiki program formally running. I met with several departments including behavioral, adoptions and volunteer programs on numerous occasions to write the policies and procedures needed to protect the animals, shelter, and staff.

The process sped up considerably once I brought my treatment table and offered staff sample Reiki treatment. Experiencing Reiki treatment directly helped them realize how much this would help the animals and staff alike.

Training Reiki volunteers

The shelter has more than 800 volunteers and each one is trained carefully.

Any Reiki practitioner wishing to offer treatment must first qualify as shelter volunteers. That process starts with taking all the volunteer information courses that are mandatory for people working in any capacity in the shelter.

Volunteers learn how the shelter is run overall, and are taught medical codes for charting and safe animal handling procedures. They also get experience working with animals under supervision.

Volunteers are not eligible to offer Reiki treatment until they have worked at the shelter a certain number of hours. The requirement varies with the position, but usually takes a few months to complete.

Volunteers wanting to offer Reiki treatment must then provide at least a First degree Reiki certificate. In order to better understand an individual practitioner’s readiness for the program, we have a conversation that starts with this question, “Do you practice daily hands-on Reiki self-treatment?” That question invariably takes the conversation where it needs to go.

Sometimes the candidates Reiki experience needs strengthening, and we discuss ways that might happen. In a couple of situations, with candidates who were sincerely interested to be a Reiki volunteer at the shelter but who lacked a solid background, I offered a reduced fee to take my First degree class. People who present online Reiki certificates are encouraged to take an in-person training before attempting to offer Reiki treatment at the shelter.

Candidates who have passed the volunteer requirements and met Reiki competency then have three days of direct supervision and mentoring with me while they offer treatments to animals at the shelter.

After that process is completed, they can volunteer exclusively to give Reiki treatments to animals. Some Reiki volunteers sign up either for our dog walking or cat comforting programs and practice Reiki as part of the quality time spent with the animals.

Benefits of Reiki treatment

The shelter considers Reiki treatment adjunct to the conventional medical, emotional and behavioral care offered by staff. The observed benefits have been significant enough that several staff approached me about training and registered for Reiki classes.

Staff enjoy the comfort, relaxation and self-care their Reiki practice provides them. Shelter work is very demanding and practicing Reiki helps caregivers care for themselves as well as the animals. I stress the importance of daily self Reiki treatment and require all Reiki volunteers to commit to self-care.

Practicing Reiki develops trust and respect between the practitioner and the receiver, whether human or animal. Together, we create a partnership in healing that benefits us all.


Do you want to practice Reiki in public venues? The Mainstreaming Reiki recordings will prepare you for public practice.

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7 thoughts on “Reiki Program at an Animal Shelter”

  1. I, myself, have worked several years in a volunteer capacity in our local shelter,and can tell you that it is equally important to offer sessions to the staff as well as th animals, so I was greatly pleased to read this in the lovely article.
    Thank you to spreading the good word about Reiki in shelters. As with our human Senior citizens, animals are an under-served population.

  2. Thank you Kelly for the shelter work you do
    The wonderful thing about volunteering in the shelter environment is that no matter what an animal has been through or why they ended up there Reiki treats the ” whole” , body, mind & spirit. All we have to do is offer & they choose to receive or not

  3. Thank you for writing this article Dona. I appreciate you sharing the process by which you vet potential volunteers. Self-treatment is so important. The shelter environment is difficult enough–keeping ourselves grounded and centered is imperative. Thank you for all you are doing for the animals!

  4. I’m military with reiki 1 and 2 from the London reiki academy. I pcs to Montgomery Alabama. I tried to offer my services free of charge to one of the shelters….they looked at me like I was crazy! I’m so glad this lady was able to establish a program!

    1. Glenda,

      It is not easy to bring Reiki treatment into a new facility. Participating at the shelter first, volunteering in whatever way is needed, might be a good first step. Then when the staff gets to know you, it might be possible to introduce Reiki treatment.

      There is an art to speaking about Reiki practice in mainstream environments. You might want to read the posts under Communicating Reiki on the blog, or look at the Mainstreaming Reiki Webinars

      1. I volunteer many times, but it didn’t work. I fostered 3 kittens so they got plenty of reiki and pulled out from a Coccidia diagnostic fine!! Thanks, Pamela, I will check the blog! 🙂

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