Does your dog, cat, rabbit or guinea pig have the “right stuff”?
The animals in the photos visit at various hospitals, nursing homes, libraries and schools in the Twin Cities! They are registered therapy animals with Pet Partners (www.PetPartners.org). As part of my business I do presentations on how you can get your animal registered as an official therapy animal. As the Therapy Animal Trainer at the Animal Humane Society. I offer free informational sessions every other month at various AHS locations. For dogs that want to take my therapy dog class, they must have their Canine Good Citizen Certificate (CGC) and complete a ten week class that I teach in Golden Valley at AHS. Owners of cats and smaller critters have an opportunity to take one private session with their animal and then train at home. I assess their animal and give them information on how to train, best practices, etc.. Evaluations are available to all of my students when they are ready to test. Ages ten and over can become handlers.
So, does your animal have the right stuff? They must be reliable, predictable and controllable. They must like people! The dogs can not be resource guarders or reactive to other dogs and must have good obedience skills. It is highly recommended that dogs go through positive obedience training classes until they are under good verbal control.
COSTS OF TRAINING
Dogs and cats must be at least one year old and have lived with you for six months. The Therapy Dog Class at AHS for ten weeks costs $190 (includes an evaluation). The one time private session for the other species is $20. There is also an online program for handlers through Pet Partners that costs $70 for anyone just starting out. After you complete the online part of the program then you and your animal need to pass an in person evaluation as a team. After you pass that part there is a $95 fee to register as an official team. Once you are registered, Pet Partners insures you for 2 million per incident for two years if anything should happen on a visit when you are volunteering.
Note: Currently the Health Partners Hospice program has a scholarship for both of the Pet Partners fees if you volunteer with your therapy animal (dog, cat or rabbit) for one year with them. I might want to add that making a difference in someone’s life is priceless and very rewarding too!
I visited with my husky Charlie at Mission Home in Plymouth for about five years. One of the residents that was a double amputee and kept to himself all the time would come out of his room only once a week just to say hi to Charlie, otherwise he wouldn’t come out. This resident was moved to tears when Charlie gave him a Christmas card the first year we visited as he hadn’t received any since he had moved there several years before. He hugged Charlie and thanked him.
There are many more stories like this one that have kept me energized and volunteering at different facilities for over fourteen years. There is more “demand than supply” from many facilities so if you think your animal has the right stuff to become an official therapy animal, please consider volunteering with them in your community!
For more information about the Therapy Animal Program at AHS go to: www.animalhumanesociety.org or attend the next “Intro to Therapy Animals” presentation on Dec.10th from 7-8 p.m. at the Golden Valley Animal Humane Society. To register e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org