Program Requirements

Pet Partners is proud to register nine different species for therapy animal work. Although the majority of our teams are dogs, we also register cats, equines, rabbits, guinea pigs, llamas and alpacas, birds, miniature pigs, and rats.

Criteria for Prospective Therapy Animals

Pet Partners Therapy Animals must meet the following criteria:

  • Are at least one year old at the time of evaluation, or six months old for rabbits, guinea pigs, and rats. Have a young animal? See our tips for preparing for future therapy work.
  • Have lived in the owner’s home for at least six months, or one year for birds.
  • Must be reliably house trained. Waste collection devices are not permitted, with the exception of flight suits for birds.
  • Be currently vaccinated against rabies. Rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, and birds are exempt from this requirement. Titres are not accepted in lieu of vaccination.
  • May not be fed a raw meat diet.
  • Have no history of aggression or seriously injuring either people or other animals. This includes animals who have been trained to aggressively protect and/or have been encouraged to bite, even if it is a component of dog sport, such as Schutzhund.
  • Demonstrate good basic obedience skills. Animals walking with a lead should walk on a loose leash, and respond reliably to common commands such as “sit,” “down,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it.”
  • Welcome, not merely tolerate, interactions with strangers.
  • Be comfortable wearing Pet Partners acceptable equipment.

Animals with an Illness

Animal welfare and infection control are key principles of the Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program. Asking animals to make therapy animal visits when they are not healthy increases stress and can lead to a worsened condition. Additionally, you may visit clients with compromised immune systems who would be at risk for transmission of zoonotic diseases.

If your animal is taking antibiotics, antifungals, or immunosuppressants (including steroid and chemotherapy medications), they will be unable to register and visit until they have finished treatment.

Animals with a Disability

Pet Partners does register animals with disabilities as long as visiting does not aggravate the medical condition. If your animal’s disability may require accommodations to the evaluation, please contact us and we’d be happy to discuss the specifics of your particular situation.

Criteria for Prospective Handlers

Successful handlers will be able to do the following:

  • Read their animal’s particular body language and recognize when their animal is stressed, anxious, concerned, overstimulated, or fatigued.
  • Demonstrate positive interactions with their animal by praising, cueing, encouraging, and reassuring the animal as needed.
  • Cue or redirect their animal without raising their voice, forcefully jerking on the leash, or offering the animal food or toys.
  • Make casual conversation with those they meet on visits while still being attentive to their animal.
  • Guide the interactions of others with the animal in a professional and polite manner.
  • Advocate for the safety and well-being of their animal at all times.

Please note: Pet Partners handlers may not be concurrently registered with another therapy animal organization that provides a similar program. All handlers must also have a unique email address in order to register with the Therapy Animal Program. 

Volunteers Who Are Minors

Pet Partners welcomes handlers as young as 10 years old. If you are under the age of 16, you must be accompanied on all visits by a parent/guardian or an adult appointed by the parent/guardian. All individuals under the age of 18 must have permission to participate from a parent or guardian, which is collected during the application process.

Volunteers with a Disability

Pet Partners works with handlers with disabilities, including those with service animals. If your disability may require accommodations to the evaluation, please contact us and we’d be happy to discuss the specifics of your particular situation.

Volunteers Who Don’t Own the Animal

You may volunteer with the animal of a friend or family member, as long as you have known and been working with the animal for at least six months (or one year for birds) and have the permission of the animal owner. Effective therapy animal teams are based on a strong bond between the handler and animal. Pet Partners relies on handlers to have a strong relationship with their animal so they can read body language and signals that their animal may be tired, stressed, anxious, or fearful and then support them accordingly.

Costs

Pet Partners relies on a combination of registration fees and donations to provide our volunteer services, including Pet Partners’ liability insurance, continuing education programming, and qualified staff who advocate for and educate about the Therapy Animal Program. Your registration fee covers only one-third of the costs to provide these resources for your two-year registration. The rest of your support comes from generous individual donors (including Pet Partners volunteers), foundations, and corporate partners.

More information about registration costs

Do You Inspire Confidence as a Team?

After you’ve reviewed all the basic requirements, this is the question that will truly determine your ability to become a successful team. Therapy animals must inspire confidence in those they meet, so they should consistently demonstrate that they’re well-behaved and have good manners. The three terms Pet Partners uses to describe this desired behavior are reliable, predictable, and controllable. When you can predict your animal’s reactions, you can take action to ensure a reliable response and maintain control of your animal in any situation. When clients and facility staff perceive that you’re in control of your animal, they’ll have confidence in you and your animal when you come for visits.