Pets and Friends Volunteer Program Requirements

Thank you for your interest in Pets and Friends and our pet therapy program. 

What is a Pets and Friends Pet Therapy Team? 

A Pets and Friends pet therapy team consists of a volunteer called a ‘handler’, and their own pet dog, cat or rabbit. After successfully completing our program, together they are called a ‘Pet Therapy Team’. Our handlers are dedicated, passionate individuals with a desire to share their pet’s unconditional love and affection with others. Our therapy pets come in all shapes, sizes and breeds but share one thing in common - they adore human contact. Pets and Friends therapy pets should not be confused with support animals such as service dogs, guide dogs, facility dogs, or emotional support animals, and have no special privileges above and beyond a pet dog that would allow them to accompany their owner to work.

Pet Therapy Team Requirements

In order to be eligible to participate as a pet therapy team, please review the following mandatory eligibility requirements:

Pet Eligibility

  • One (1) year of age or older;
  • Owned by and have lived with their handler for a minimum of three (3) months before filling out an application;
  • Up-to-date on all of the required vaccinations and maintain up-to-date vaccinations for rabies, distemper, hepatitis (adenovirus) and parvovirus (annual or triennial vaccinations accepted);
  • Receive annual veterinary health check;
  • Respond to basic cues (i.e.: sit, down, walk on a loose leash)
  • Be clean, healthy and well groomed (odor free, nails clipped and filed, teeth brushed);
  • Be friendly, social and enjoy meeting new people;
  • Successfully complete the Pets and Friends pet screening.

Please note: Pets that are aggressive or have a history of aggression, jump on people, growl at other dogs or are not housetrained are not eligible to participate.

Handler Eligibility

  • Be at least sixteen (16) years' old;
  • Commit to a regular volunteer visiting schedule for a minimum of one (1) year;
  • Submit to a criminal records check w/ vulnerable sector through Pets and Friends (must have BC Services Card);
  • Attend a pet screening to evaluate your pet's suitability for visitations;
  • Attend a human-only orientation to learn about Pets and Friends, our policies and procedures and the pet therapy program itself;
  • Be willing to pay an annual membership fee of $40.00;
  • Be willing to wear the official uniform on all pet therapy visits (handler vest, pet bandana, pet leash and ID Badges); and
  • Reside in the lower mainland of BC.

Please note: Pets and Friends does not train therapy pets or provide them to people who want to volunteer in the pet therapy program. Rather, we evaluate your pet as a prospective therapy pet for the purpose of volunteer visits. The training recommended for this role is basic obedience and good socialization. Pets and Friends is unable to 'certify' your pet as a therapy pet for the purpose of accompanying you to or involving your pet in your place of work. 

How to Become a Pet Therapy Team

  • Step 1: Application. Fill out an application to determine your eligibility.
  • Step 2: Pet screening. During the assessment, situations that may arise during a typical visit to a healthcare facility are simulated. The pet is evaluated for temperament, sociability, good manners and grooming.
    • Pets and Friends provides pets with disabilities the opportunity to participate in the pet therapy program and makes reasonable accommodations to the screening upon request. Please inquire for more details.
  • Step 3: Membership fee. All volunteers are required to be members in good standing and this is an annual fee of $40.00 paid initially before orientation and renewable before Dec 31 each year. 
  • Step 4: Orientation. Handlers will learn about Pets and Friends, our policies and procedures, and the pet therapy program itself. 
  • Step 5: Volunteer. The Pet Therapy Coordinator will help match you with an available volunteer opportunity that you are interested in and that is already a part of the pet therapy program. Some of the available opportunities include: senior residences, hospitals, hospices, colleges, day programs, mental health programs, and youth at risk throughout the lower mainland. Note that some programs and venues may require additional onboarding, training or shadowing an experienced pet therapy team before you visit on your own.

What commitment is expected of you?

Our goal is for all pet therapy teams to volunteer with Pets and Friends a minimum of 1 shift per month for one year. 

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