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. Take a look at these frequently asked questions to learn about how your pet can be come a therapy animal, which tells you about our requirements.

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. Pet Partners does not ‘certify’ therapy animal teams. We do not have hands-on involvement in the training of the animals volunteering with us; rather, our registration process is a screening that helps us verify you meet our requirements to be successful at this very special type of volunteer work! Learn more about the difference between certification & registration.

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?

First, create your account in the Volunteer Center. Once you’re logged in, start your online registration application by clicking on My Registrations, then ‘Start a Team Registration.’ Your online registration application will guide you through each step of the process, but the steps are also outlined here below for your convenience.

1. Take the Pet Partners Handler 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. You can review your options and sign up for a course in the Training Center in the Volunteer Center (i.e. you must be logged in to sign up).

2. Fill out your Pet Partners 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. You can print this form directly from your online registration OR from the Resource Library in the Volunteer Center. Only Pet Partners’ official Animal Health Screening Form is acceptable documentation to meet this requirement.

3.  Sign up for and attend your 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! You can sign up for your session through the Training Center in the Volunteer Center (i.e. you must be logged in to sign up). Remember, you must first complete and pass your Handler Course before the date of your evaluation.

4. Complete the Volunteer Agreement, Special Initiatives, & Badge Photo sections of your application

All of these steps can be done online in a matter of minutes. Read, review, and accept the terms of the Volunteer Agreement, opt-in to our special Read with Me™ and Walk with Me™ initiatives (if you like!), and upload a photo of yourself & your animal that will appear on your therapy animal team badge.

5. Check your Registration Checklist: is everything complete?

The online registration application 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 by our staff.

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. Your registration fee only covers one-third of the costs to provide for these resources for your team for one year of your two year registration. The rest of your support comes from generous individual donors (including Pet Partners volunteers), foundations, and caring companies.

Costs for a first-time registration include the following:

  • Handler Course
  • Team Evaluation*
  • Registration Fee

All prospective handlers must take the Handler 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.

Registration fees are paid at the very end of your online registration process, after all your documents & information are received, reviewed, and approved by staff. A standard new team registration is $95. Other fees are available for seniors, members of the military, minors, and members of local Pet Partners community partner groups. Click here to read about Pet Partners’ registration fee structure and to see if you qualify for a discounted fee.

*Pet Partners’ licensed team evaluators may charge a fee for their evaluations based on the expenses incurred to put on the session (facility or materials). This fee is not paid to Pet Partners.

What are the benefits of becoming a Pet Partners team?

  • Comprehensive insurance coverage for your volunteer 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™ and Walk with Me™ programs, 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.