The Ratification Process
PeTS uses a multi-step process to evaluate and ratify teams interested in being pet therapy volunteers. The ratification process typically takes 6 – 9 months and costs between $70 – $250 per animal. Expand the ratification steps below to read more about the process, or keep scrolling down the page to learn more about performing pet therapy.
Find out what pet therapy is and isn’t, what our volunteer requirements are, and what our ratification process includes. This can be completed by doing either one of the following:
Prospective volunteers that are eligible for ratification are required to join our society to advance through the ratification process. Annual membership fees are $30 per person (18+ only). Members have access to internal programming and social events and are covered by our insurance at PeTS events and visits. Once ratified, members will receive a name tag, membership card and lanyard, while ratified animals receive a pet bandana and 50 “trading cards”
Prescreen is made up of obedience and temperament scenarios, and is conducted at the PeTS center on a Sunday, and costs $70 per team.
In a morning session, prospective volunteers (aka handlers) with dogs will participate in a series of basic obedience scenarios. A morning session takes approximately 1 hour, with up to 4 teams in the room taking turns performing the obedience tests. Evaluators look for:
- Dogs are responsive to their handler’s commands; dogs are easily managed by their handlers.
- Dogs are calm and confident in new or unexpected situations; no signs of aggression towards any people or animals.
- Handlers support their dogs when needed (praise, pets); handler & dog have a loving relationship.
- Handlers are open to feedback from evaluators.
In an individual afternoon session, handlers with dogs or cats will participate in a series of temperament scenarios that replicate what might happen on a pet therapy visit. The temperament scenarios will take approximately 15 minutes per team, with only team in the room at a time. Evaluators look for:
- Pets are calm and confident being handled by strangers.
- Handlers support their pets when needed
- Vulnerable clients would be safe when interacting with the pet on a therapy visit.
Prospective volunteers will be required to provide a completed Handler & Animal Profile form and proof of their animal’s current vaccinations (or titre testing results) before a Prescreen invoice will be issued.
Prospective volunteers (without their animal) will join a PeTS team lead of their choosing at a facility to observe a real therapy visit (~60 mins). There is no cost from PeTS for this step, but some facilities may charge for parking. The team lead will sign off on the Paws to Visit form.
The volunteer is also asked to write a letter to PeTS, on behalf of their animal, on why the animal would like to do pet therapy. A picture of the animal should be emailed with the letter.
Prospective volunteers are required to have their pet evaluated by their personal veterinarian no more than 45 days before their scheduled PEP weekend, so to ensure the animal’s medical readiness for pet therapy. The volunteer’s veterinarian will complete our health screening form, perform a fecal float test (to check for intestinal parasites), and administer any core vaccinations (or conduct titre testing) if required. There is no cost from PeTS for this step, but there will be costs charged by your veterinarian (likely $100+). The health screening, vaccinations, and fecal exam will need to be performed annually to maintain pet therapy ratification status.
- For dogs, core vaccinations include: Canine Distemper, Infectious Canine Hepatitis, Canine Parvovirus, and Rabies.
- For cats, core vaccinations include: Feline Panleukopenia (cat flu/cat distemper), Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (Herpes virus) and Calicivirus, and Rabies.
Your veterinarian may recommend other vaccinations or medications depending on your pet and lifestyle.
The Pet Education Program (PEP) is a 3-day event, taking place over a weekend.
- Friday (7pm – 8:30pm): Handlers (without pets) watch a pet therapy demo from a ratified team, and ask questions from the Handler’s Manual (provided at event registration) or from the observed visit (Paws to Visit).
- Saturday (8am – 2:30pm): lots of pet therapy practice (with pets) at the PeTS center, continued discussion of information from the Handler’s Manual.
- Sunday (9:15am – 11:30am): a simulated observed visit (~15 minutes) at one of our facility partner locations, observed by ratified PeTS members; individual time slots will be picked during Saturday’s session.
There is no charge from PeTS for this step, though there may be parking costs depending on Sunday’s facility location.
Prospective volunteers will be required to provide a completed Paws to Visit form, the letter and photo from their pet on why they want to do pet therapy, and a completed Health Screening form before PEP registration can be confirmed.
Prospective volunteers will complete 6-9 pet therapy visits along-side different PeTS team leads, who will each provide feedback after the visits on what went well and what could be improved. Practicum visits to be completed within 3 months. There is no cost from PeTS for these visits, though some facilities may charge for parking.
As your practicum visits are being conducted, you can work on the Handler’s Questionnaire, which asks what you have learned throughout the ratification process. Once your practicum visits have been completed, send in the completed questionnaire and some additional paperwork to order a name tag, pet bandana, and trading cards for use after ratification is approved.
PeTS’ board of directors will review each prospective volunteer’s file in its entirety and vote if the handler & pet are ready to perform pet therapy on their own. A majority vote is required. The board may request the volunteer to repeat earlier ratification steps.
Once ratified, teams have access to our list of facility partners and therapy events, and will choose where and when they visit, as well as how often.
Teams that do not go on any pet therapy visits for 6+ months will need to go back through temperament testing, at no cost, before they resume visiting. This is to ensure that the animal would still enjoy participating in pet therapy.
Ratified animals that do not go on any pet therapy visits for 12+ months are considered retired, and would need to go back through the entire ratification process before being able to resume pet therapy visits.
Who Can Volunteer?
- Must be dogs or cats.
- Must be at least 2 years old.
- Must be friendly with people of all ages, and other animals.
- Must enjoy being touched by new people.
- Must behave politely in new places. No barking, marking, or stealing the silverware.
- Dogs are expected to have basic obedience skills, such as the ability to walk well on leash through crowds and sitting nicely when meeting new people.
- Must pass all applicable Prescreen tests.
- Must be at least 18 years old.
- Must have been with their animal for at least 6 months.
- Must have a clear Intervention Record check to visit facilities with minors.
- Must have a clear Vulnerable Sector Police Information check to visit facilities with minors, the elderly, or people with disabilities.
- Must successfully complete all steps in our ratification process.
What Happens on a Visit?
On a visit, the goal is to support the needs of the client. This might include:
- The client petting the therapy animal, or watching from a distance if they have animal-related anxieties or allergies.
- The client reading to or throwing toys for the therapy animal.
- The handler and animal demonstrating tricks.
- The client and handler talking about shared interests, such as animals and other politically sensitive topics.
Visits are typically an hour long, but the time varies by pet and by type of visit:
- One-on-one visits, with a single pet therapy team on-site, visiting with clients individually. This is common in hospitals and assisted-living facilities where it might be difficult for clients to leave their rooms.
- Solo visits, with a single pet therapy team on-site, interacting with multiple clients in a common room or throughout the facility. This might be done in a classroom or at an airport.
- Group visits, with multiple pet therapy teams on-site, interacting with multiple clients in the same room or throughout the facility. This is what you might see at a university during exam week, at a festival, or in a seniors living apartment. This type of format works well for larger groups (20+ clients), so that everyone has a change to interact with at least one therapy animal.