Connecting Hearts To Paws

We provide positive interactions for socially isolated Australians and rescue animals.

Connecting Hearts To Paws

We provide positive interactions for socially isolated Australians and rescue animals.

Connecting Hearts To Paws

We provide positive interactions for socially isolated Australians and rescue animals.



Paws in need

Each year, tens of thousands of RSPCA animals spend time waiting to be adopted from a centre. They are provided with vital veterinary services and hands on contact from loving volunteers and foster carers. However, it can be difficult to find enough people to provide regular interactions while the animals are waiting to be adopted.

Hearts in need

There are growing numbers of socially isolated Australians hoping to reconnect with the world around them. However, it can be difficult to find meaningful social experiences that also restore self-confidence. For many, social interactions can become few and far between and getting out of the home or hostel can be a daunting occasion. Furthermore, many socially isolated Australians choose to go without a pet or have to surrender their animals because of the long-term care needs.

Life enriching interactions

Happy Paws Happy Hearts was established to create positive social experiences by connecting the socially isolated with the RSPCA animals. Research shows that people who remain socially engaged have much higher levels of wellbeing and life expectancy. The key benefit of Happy Paws Happy Hearts is that it provides everyone participating with a strong sense of purpose and the known therapeutic benefits of animal interactions. At the same time, participants get a wonderful sense of accomplishment knowing that their attendance helps animals get adopted faster.

The groups already engaging in these experiences include the elderly, people with mental and/or physical disabilities and women taking temporary shelter in safe hostels.

How it works


We meet you at the RSPCA

Your group can make regular visits to the RSPCA Adoption Centre at the Brisbane Animal Care Campus.


We interact with animals

We’ll enjoy the company of rescue dogs, cats, kittens and puppies who all need your company.


We have morning or afternoon tea

We arrange for tea and cakes and chat about the different animals you have met.


We can connect with family or friends

When you’re comfortable we can connect with your family and share pictures and stories of the animals you’re helping.

Our Services

What are our hopes for the future

Recovery and social connection programs

Our Services

Disability 12 week course

Happy Paws Happy Hearts now offers a 12 week outcomes based course.  This is a unique person-centered approach to animal assisted learning with precise therapeutic objectives.  The focus of this program is to support people with a disability and their families to meet individual goals with clear measurable outcomes.  For further information, download our disability services overview.

Aged care booked visits to and from RSPCA animals

Happy Paws Happy Hearts delivers animal-assisted therapy sessions in group environments at both the RSPCA Animal Care Campus and external facilities.  We offer a unique and innovative way to bring people together in a social and engaging manner that leaves lasting impressions.  Our aim is to help our participants strengthen existing and create new connections, lessen the occurrence or risk of social isolation and increase knowledge of animal care and welfare.  For further information, download our HPHH program overview.

Social connection and recovery programs

Happy Paws Happy Hearts is trialing a new initiative with Mates4Mates which supports ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF).  Our dedicated Mates are engaged in an intense animal training course and will be trained to support a wide range of areas and animals at the RSPCA.  For further information on this program, please contact us directly.


Our team

Happy Paws Happy Hearts is made possible through the combined efforts of volunteers, participants, co-founders and Directors

Zoe Black

Zoe Black

Co Founder and Program Director

Graeme Caplen

Graeme Caplen

Co Founder

Brooke Leatham

Program Assistant

Volunteers leading interactions

We have an incredible group of volunteers who were recruited from the University of Queensland School of Psychology.  Each volunteer gives up 4 hours a fortnight to run interactions and improve lives of both the people participating and animals in care at the RSPCA.

Group participants

Our participants provide vital support to animals seeking shelter at the RSPCA by giving them affection, basic training and socialisation skills.  They visit the RSPCA on week days, which is when it is most difficult to find people available to spend time with the animals

Our Partners

If it wasn’t for the aligned vision of our partners, Happy Paws Happy Hearts would still be an idea without legs and arms or tails and paws! Through the support of these organisations we have created precious moments, warm smiles and important progress on the issues we aim to address.



Our journey

How did we start

Our Journey

How did we start

We started Happy Paws Happy Hearts after witnessing two issues needing a creative solution.  On the one hand, we saw a growing number of people disconnecting from society and the first group we wanted to connect with was the elderly.  On the other hand, we saw organisations like the RSPCA in need of volunteers, particularly during the working week, to care for smaller animals and kittens. Our light bulb moment was realising that we could make progress on solving both these issues by connecting the two groups together.

What are our hopes for the future

Through our journey, we hope to enrich the overall health, wellbeing and welfare of isolated members of society.

We will do this by connecting hearts in need, with paws in need, to facilitate life-enriching interactions.

How will we step forward

Enrich the overall health, wellbeing and welfare of isolated members of society, including elderly persons, vulnerable people and members of the community with a disability by facilitating ongoing meaningful interaction between members of our society and animals in need at animal shelters, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

Encourage participants increased sense of value and usefulness to society through assisting the animals in need. Further encourage and facilitate the re-connection of relationships with the participant’s family and friends.

Educate the community regarding welfare issues for isolated members of society and the benefits of ongoing meaningful interaction between these members of our society and animals in need.

Advocate that animals in need can play a significant role in developing and enriching the overall health, well-being and welfare of isolated members of the community.

Advance research into the benefits and outcomes of establishing relationships between isolated members of the community and animals in need.

Happy Paws Happy Hearts Foundation