Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program • Frequently Asked Questions

Use the quick links below to jump to the answer to one of the following questions. If clicking the link doesn't take you to that section, you'll need to scroll down for the answer.

How do I get started to become a Therapy Animal team?
Can my children volunteer with me or do this on their own?
Where do I get the Therapy Animal Registration Packet?
How long do I have to complete my registration?
What is the Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program?
Is a Pet Partners Therapy Animal team specially trained?
Could my animal be a Therapy Animal?
I evaluated with my animal, but we got a Not Ready score. What do I do now?
What animals are involved as Therapy Animals?
Can wild or exotic animals be Therapy Animals?
Can puppies and kittens become Therapy Animals?
Is any particular breed of dog better than another?
What are the health screening requirements to participate?
Are Pet Partners Therapy Animals certified or registered?
Does the Pet Partners Therapy Animal program provide volunteer insurance?
Is there professional liability coverage for Pet Partners Therapy Animal teams?
What is "Pet Therapy?"
What is the difference between service and therapy animals?
What is Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy?
What types of healthcare facilities have visiting animals?
What is a Community Partner?
Can people in hospitals catch diseases from animals?
How much does it cost to register as a Pet Partners therapy animal team?

If you still have a question or comment not answered by this document, please contact one of our volunteer customer service representatives at volunteering@petpartners.org.

 

How do I get started to become a Pet Partners Therapy Animal team?

The steps include taking the Handler course, having your veterinarian complete the Animal Health Screening Form and successfully completing a team evaluation with your animal. For more details, visit How to become a registered Pet Partners Therapy Animal team.

Can my children volunteer with me or do this on their own?

Children as  young as 10 years old can become registered as a  handler for a therapy animal team. All handlers, regardless of age, will need to complete the same steps as noted on the previous page. Chilcren younger than 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian on all visits. Please be aware, some facilities may have age limits.

Where do I get the Therapy Animal Registration Packet?

The registration materials are available online at www.petpartners.org/teamregistrationpacket.  All new volunteers must complete the Pet Partners Therapy Animal Handler Course before filling out the registration packet and being evaluated.  The current version of the packet is MAR2014.

How long do I have to complete my registration?

Once you have been evaluated, your scores are only valid for 90 days. If your registration is received after that date, you may be asked to re-evaluate.

What is the Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program?

The Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program enables pet owner volunteers to provide services to people in their own communities while spending quality time with their pets. For more information, please CLICK HERE.

Is a Pet Partners Therapy Animal team specially trained?

Pet Partners trains human volunteers and screens and evaluates person-pet teams for participation in visiting animal programs in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and schools. Training for volunteers is provided through hands-on workshops taught by Pet Partners licensed instructors or through our online Pet Partners Therapy Animal Handler course. Volunteers and their pets are then evaluated for skills and aptitude by Pet Partners licensed team evaluators.

Could my animal be a Therapy Animal?

Yes, if your animal is controllable, reliable, and predictable. Your animal should also have good manners in public places, and have the social skills to seek out and visit with strangers. The Pet Partners Therapy Animal program is unique in that we look at both ends of the leash; you too must illustrate that you have the skills to work well with your animal and with clients and facilities that you will serve. Take a self assessment HERE.

I evaluated with my animal, but we got a Not Ready score. What do I do now?

Pet Partners encourages teams who receive a Not Ready score to try again. Sometimes an animal can have a bad day. Sometimes animals need a little more obedience training. Whatever the reason, you are welcome to practice what you need to and try your evaluation again.

What animals are involved as Therapy Animals?

Pet Partners registers a variety of animals including dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, rats, miniature pigs, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys and mini-horses or donkeys.

Can wild or exotic animals be Pet Partners?

No. We know many people have wonderful experiences with these animals as pets, but without research documenting their behavior over time, we cannot evaluate their predictability and reaction to stress. However, Pet Partners is constantly reviewing the species included in the Therapy Animal program and is open to making adjustments when such research results are available.

Can puppies and kittens become Therapy Animals?

Animals must be at least one year old and  have lived in the owner's home for at least six months before evaluating and registering with Pet Partners. Pocket pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs and rats only need to be six months old.

Is any particular breed of dog better than another?

No, both mixed breeds and purebreds can excel at this work. What matters most is the individual animal's personality - that s/he likes people and has confidence in visiting strange places.

What are the health screening requirements to participate?

Animals must be healthy to participate and have a current rabies vaccination. For more information visit the Become a Pet Partners team: Step 2.

Are Pet Partners therapy animals certified or registered?

Pet Partners therapy animal teams are registered, not certified. Certification implies that Pet Partners has participated in the handler's and the animal's training. Whereas registration requires training and screening, Pet Partners does not certify that the team is trained to a certain level. Instead, the team is registered as having met minimum requirements.

Does the Pet Partners Therapy Animal program provide volunteer insurance?

When acting as a volunteer for Pet Partners within the scope of your duties as a Therapy Animal volunteer, you and your pet are insured by Pet Partners' commercial general liability insurance. That means that if either member of a team causes a loss at a location where the team is visiting, and that loss results in a claim for which Pet Partners is liable, Pet Partners' commercial general liability insurance will defend and pay expenses of the claim.

Is there professional liability coverage for Pet Partners Therapy Animal teams?

As a Pet Partners Therapy Animal Team, you will be covered on the Pet Partners insurance policy when you are doing volunteer work as a team. In cases where professionals are using animals in the context of their jobs, Pet Partners insurance does not provide coverage. It is important that you understand your coverage in case of an incident.

What is "Pet Therapy?"

The term "pet therapy" should be avoided because it is inaccurate and misleading. This term was widely used several decades ago to refer to animal behavior training programs. Today we use the terms "animal-assisted activities" or "animal-assisted therapy". These are the terms that human service providers and volunteers use when referring to the involvement of animals in human treatment programs. We do animal-assisted therapy when we work directly with a licensed healthcare or human service provider to help a patient meet specific goals. We do animal-assisted activities when we meet and greet people to brighten their day, or do a demonstration in front of a group of people.

What is the difference between service and therapy animals?

Service Animals
Service animals are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, and reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications. Service dogs also employ specific skills to provide mobility assistance, support individuals with PTSD, communicate seizure alerts and/or perform other duties that mitigate an individual’s disability. Service dogs are considered working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Service dogs are permitted, in accordance with the ADA, to accompany a person with a disability almost anywhere the general public is allowed. This includes restaurants, businesses and on airplanes.

Individuals with disabilities have responsibilities under ADA Title III as well as rights. Service dogs must be in good health, well trained and well groomed, and may not disrupt the normal course of business while accompanying the individual they serve.

Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
An emotional support animal, sometimes also referred to as a comfort animal, is a pet that provides therapeutic support to a person with a mental illness.

To be designated as an emotional support animal, the pet must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional for a person with a mental illness. The prescription must state that the individual has an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, and that the presence of the animal is necessary for the individual’s mental health.

Per the ADA, individuals with emotional support animals do not have the same rights to public access as individuals with a service dog. ESAs may only accompany their owners in public areas with the express permission of each individual venue and/or facility management. ESAs may travel with their owner on an airplane and may live with their owner in locations covered by the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) regardless of a ‘no pets’ policy. Although most frequently dogs, other species may be prescribed as emotional support animals.

Therapy Animal
Therapy animals, like those who participate in the Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program, provide affection and comfort to various members of the public, typically in facility settings such as hospitals, retirement homes, and schools. A therapy animal has no special rights of access, except in those facilities where they are welcomed. They may not enter businesses with “no pets” policies or accompany their handler in the cabin of airplanes regardless of their therapy animal designation.

As a Pet Partners handler, you may be asked about your animal while out in public. This is a great opportunity to provide accurate information about the differences between these types of animals. It is important that, as a handler, you are careful not to misrepresent the role of your animal which could inadvertently impact those legitimately using service and emotional support animals in public.

Misrepresenting a therapy animal as a service animal or emotional support animal is a violation of Pet Partners Standards of Professional Conduct and grounds for dismissal from the therapy animal program.

What is Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy?

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal is incorporated as an integral part of the clinical healthcare treatment process. AAT is delivered or directed by a professional health or human service provider who demonstrates skill and expertise regarding the clinical applications of human-animal interactions. Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA)  provide opportunities for motivational, educational and/or recreational benefits to enhance a person's quality of life. AAA are delivered by a professional, para-professional or volunteer who demonstrates knowledge about animals and the human populations with which they interact.

For more information, visit our About AAA/T section of this website.

What types of healthcare facilities have visiting animals?

Nationally you will find therapy animal programs represented in virtually every kind of healthcare facility. Pet Partners therapy animal teams visit in acute care hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals, mental health in-patient facilities, skilled nursing facilities, retirement homes, group homes, schools, libraries and many other locations.

What is a Community Partner?

Community Partners are groups of registered Pet Partners volunteers that serve a specific geographic area or facility who are interested in a closer, more collaborative relationship with the parent organization.

Can people in hospitals catch diseases from animals?

Some people think the animals that visit are cleaner than people who visit! Before animals can be registered as therapy animals, they must have a thorough veterinary checkup. In addition, it is the handler's responsibility prior to each visit to look for any signs of ill health or parasites, as well as bathe and groom their animal. Facilities welcome visiting therapy animals with open arms - as they are healthy, clean model citizens!

How much does it cost to register as a Therapy Animal Team with Pet Partners?

There are fees for the handler course, evaluation and registration.  Additionally you will need  your vet to complete a health screening, which may have an associated charge.

Janell Kreider with Jenna

Other than raising my children, providing pet therapy with Jenna for the past 9 years has been the most important thing I have done in my life - she is truly my angel dog and best friend.  I am grateful to Pet Partners/Delta Society for the pet therapy program, for enriching my life, and enabling me to serve others in ways I never would have imagined.
~ Janell Keider with Jenna
 

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