Become a Handler

We’re excited to know that you are interested in becoming a therapy animal handler with your animal!  While therapy dogs make up 94% of the teams in our Therapy Animal Program, we register eight other species too.

How do I become a volunteer?

Pet Partners is a nationwide program registering therapy animal teams of nine diverse species for volunteer work. Our teams visit hospitals, nursing homes, and schools, among many other facilities.

To become a volunteer therapy animal team, you and your animal will need to complete a registration. Team registration is the process you will go through to demonstrate that you and your animal are suitable and prepared for therapy animal work.

Is the therapy animal program a good fit for me?

We strongly encourage you to take a look at the following resources to help you decide if the program will be a good fit for you and your animal:

Do you have a new pet that you hope has a future as a therapy animal? Check out our tips for preparing a puppy to be a therapy dog.

What is involved in a first-time registration with Pet Partners?

1.  Create an account in the Volunteer Center.

2.  Take the Pet Partners Handler’s Course

The key to safe and effective visits is the training for the “human end of the leash.” The handler’s course is not an animal training course. Instead, it will provide you with a thorough background in the responsibilities and necessary considerations for successful volunteering in any facility you wish to visit.

The course can be taken either in person, if an instructor lives in your area, or online. The in-person course is a great opportunity to ask questions of experienced Pet Partners volunteers and make connections in your local community. However, there may not always be a course in your area at a time that works in your schedule, so the online course has been built with that in mind.

3.  Animal Health Screening Form

Our Animal Health Screening Form will be signed by your veterinarian, confirming that your animal is healthy and able to participate in the program.

4.  Team Evaluation

The team evaluation is a mock therapy animal visit conducted with a Pet Partners licensed evaluator. The evaluator will assess your ability to interpret and manage your animal’s behavior, as well as your animal’s response to your cues. Make sure to have the acceptable equipment ready for your evaluation!

5.  Check your Registration Checklist: is everything complete?

The online registration process provides a checklist to help you follow along with what you have finished and what is left to do. We will not request your registration payment until your application is completed in full, reviewed, and approved.

What are the costs associated with a first time registration?

Pet Partners relies on a combination of program fees and donations to provide volunteer services, including Pet Partners’ liability insurance, continuing education programming, and a qualified staff who advocate for and educate about the Therapy Animal Program.

All prospective handlers must take the Handler’s Course. The cost of the course online is $70. In person workshops, taught by a local instructor, vary in cost depending on the expenses the instructor is taking on to provide the course and materials. Check the calendar of events for more information about workshop fees.

Click here to read about Pet Partners’ registration fee structure. This fee is paid after your application is completed and approved.

What are the benefits of becoming a Pet Partners team?

  • Comprehensive insurance coverage for your visits
  • Access to our database of Volunteer Opportunities
  • High quality continuing education courses available free or at discounted prices
  • Opportunity to participate in the Read With Me™ program, included with your registration
  • Being a part of the most prestigious therapy animal program in the U.S.

Can I be registered with Pet Partners and another group simultaneously?

Pet Partners is the leader in safe and effective therapy animal visitation.  There are increased risks when teams register with multiple registries and operate under different codes of conduct, policies, procedures, and participation criteria. In order to be fully covered by Pet Partners’ insurance policy, volunteers must represent Pet Partners and may not affiliate with another organization that registers therapy animal teams or charges a fee to participate in their program when Pet Partners has a similar offering. Pet Partners does not have any restrictions on its teams visiting a facility while other therapy animal volunteers who are not members of Pet Partners are present.