So you want to become a therapy animal team with your pet. The process can be a bit daunting, but we are here to help you! You many already have a well trained pet with a beautiful temperament and could go straight to the evaluation. Or you might have a pet who needs a lot of training before you're ready. What makes a good therapy animal, anyway? You can start here with some basics about getting started, then read on below for the steps to take to become a therapy animal team.
It takes a special pet to become a therapy animal, but it also takes a well trained animal. If you have a dog, there are many options locally. Dogs should be able to do all the basic commands reliably (sit, down, stay, come when called, walk on loose leash, etc.). A great way to know if your dog is ready is to take a Canine Good Citizen test. This is an excellent way to prepare for doing pet therapy. Although not a requirement, it can give you a good foundation for the work you will do in pet therapy. (Please note that some therapy animal programs will require a CGC. Do your research about where you might want to volunteer so that you know what the requirements are for that specific program. More about the programs in the Volunteer section below this section)
Listed here are local resources for force-free, positive reinforcement trainers in Northeast Florida for getting basic skills training, therapy animal training or taking the Canine Good Citizen test. If you are looking for resources in another area, please email us and we will try to assist you in finding an appropriate training facility.
Part of knowing what skills your dog will need is knowing what the registering organizations require. Take some time to learn about registering organizations in step 2 below. If you have a species other than a dog that you are interested in volunteering with, please read on about registration.
|Comprehensive Canine Training||In home training|
|Jacksonville Pawsitive Training||2671 Huffman Boulevard, Jacksonville, Florida 32246|
|K9 Obedience Club||2638 Powers Ave, Jacksonville, FL 32207|
|Maggie Marshall Dog Training||7060 103rd Street, #113, Jacksonville, FL 32210|
|Take the Lead Dog Training||In home training|
|Zoomeez Dog Training||In home training|
Registration is an important step. Becoming registered by a national therapy animal registering organization demonstrates that you and your pet have been trained, screened and evaluated for therapy work. Registration also provides you with liability insurance, which protects you and the facility while you are volunteering.
Two therapy animal registering organizations have a presence in Northeast Florida: Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD) and Pet Partners. As its name suggests, ATD registers only dogs. Pet Partners registers nine species: dogs, cats, equines, rabbits, guinea pigs, llamas/alpacas, birds, pigs and rats.
ATD and Pet Partners differ in training, cost, testing requirements and membership renewal. We recommend that you research them both and then pick the one that you think will be the best fit for you and your animal.
This handy comparison chart shows the main differences between the two organizations (to download a copy of the chart, click this link). You can feel confident that either group will prepare you for doing animal-assisted interactions. Please click on each link below for more details about the registration process for each organization.
You have so many choices when it comes to volunteer opportunities. Where you want to devote your time is a very personal decision. A good starting point is deciding what you feel passionate about. Equally as important is selecting an environment that is a good match for your pet. If your pet isn’t enjoying himself while visiting, he could quickly burn out. And don’t be discouraged if you discover your first choice isn’t the perfect match for you both. Try a different pet therapy opportunity!
Therapy animal programs vary from calm and predictable environments to more stressful and unpredictable surroundings. Some programs permit only dogs; others accept alternative species. Some programs have additional requirements over and above being a registered therapy team, like requiring the Canine Good Citizen or joining their volunteer program.
If you become a member of Therapy Animal Coalition, we can help match you with the best volunteer opportunity for you and your pet. We also want to help therapy animal programs by recruiting the right teams for their programs. Finding the right fit will keep teams volunteering longer and help keep our therapy animal community vibrant and growing.
Northeast Florida is home to scores of therapy animal programs. Here is a list of just some of the major programs in our area.
Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville
Baptist Medical Center Beaches
Community Hospice of Northeast Florida
HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response
Jacksonville International Airport - JAX Paws Program
Nemours Children's Specialty Care
READing Paws - Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.)
Ronald McDonald House (no dogs, only alternative species)
UF Health Jacksonville
UF Health North
Wolfson's Children's Hospital
If you do not find the information you need to make a decision about volunteering, please contact us directly so we can help you.