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. The cost varies depending on veterinary costs. PeTS offers a senior’s discount on the cost of the Prescreen event.
Expand the ratification steps below to read more about our process, or scroll down the page to learn more about volunteer eligibility and what to expect on a pet therapy visit.
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, social events and coverage under our insurance at PeTS events.
Prescreen is day-long event that evaluates a team’s ability to perform a series of obedience and temperament scenarios. Prescreen takes place at the PeTS Center, and has an event fee of $70 per team, or $50 per team if the handler is age 65+. Prospective volunteers will be asked to email a completed Handler & Animal Profile form, a copy of their animal’s current vaccinations or titre testing results, and event payment before being assigned a Prescreen evaluation time.
- 9:15 – 10:15am – First group takes turns performing the obedience scenarios; only for teams with dogs, maximum 4 teams will be scheduled in a group.
- 10:30am – 11:30am – Second group takes turns performing the obedience scenarios.
- 11:30am – 1:00pm – Obedience evaluations confer and determine which teams from the obedience groups are ready to move onto the temperament evaluations. Eligible teams will be texted their temperament time slot.
- 1:00pm – 2:45pm – Teams individually perform the temperament scenarios; takes approximately 15 minutes; for teams with dogs and for teams with cats.
All Prescreen participants will receive a written report summarizing the Prescreen evaluators’ observations and suggestions. Eligible teams will be invited to move onto the next ratification step.
Prospective volunteers will complete a Paws to Visit event by choosing a PeTS team lead to observe on a real therapy visit. The visit will be approximately 60 minutes, and take place at a partner facility’s location. There is no cost from PeTS for this step, but there could be parking expenses at some partner facility locations.
After seeing a pet therapy visit first-hand, prospective volunteers are asked to write a letter to PeTS, on behalf of their animal, on why the animal would like to do pet therapy.
Prospective volunteers are required to have their companion animal evaluated by their personal veterinarian no more than 45 days before their scheduled PEP weekend, as to determine the animal’s medical readiness for pet therapy. The veterinarian is asked to complete PeTS’ Animal Health Screening form, which includes documenting the results of a fecal float test to check for intestinal parasites and administering any recommendation vaccinations. Titre testing results may be submitted in lieu of vaccination records.
There is no cost from PeTS for this step, but there will be costs charged by your veterinarian (likely $100+).
The Pet Education Program (PEP) is a 3-day event, taking place over a weekend.
- Friday (7pm – 8:30pm): Demonstration from a ratified pet therapy team; takes place at the PeTS Center, group activity
- Saturday (8am – 2:30pm): review of material from the required reading (Handler’s Manual) and pet therapy role playing; takes place at the PeTS Center, group activity.
- Sunday (9:15am – 11:30am): a simulated pet therapy visit (~15 minutes duration); takes place at a partner facility’s location, individual time slots assigned.
There is no cost for PEP, though there may be parking costs at the partner facility’s location on the Sunday.
After successful completion of PEP Weekend, prospective volunteers will be assigned 6-9 pet therapy visits to perform, under the guidance of a PeTS team lead, within a 3-month period. Extensions may be requested from PeTS if needed.
Each team lead will provide feedback at the end of visit. There is no PeTS costs for practicum visits, though they may be parking expenses at some partner facility locations.
As practicum visits are being conducted, prospective volunteers can be simultaneously working on the Handler’s Questionnaire, which checks what you have learned throughout the ratification process.
Once all required practicum visits have been completed, it’s time to email in the practicum paperwork, the completed questionnaire, as well as order forms to get a name tag, pet bandana, and trading cards once ratification is approved by the board of directors.
PeTS’ board of directors will review each prospective volunteer’s file in its entirety and vote if the team is ready to perform pet therapy on their own. A majority vote is required.
If the majority does not vote to ratify the team, the board may request that earlier ratification steps be repeated.
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. Ratified handlers will receive a name tag, PeTS lanyard, a pet bandana, and 50 “trading” cards that feature their pet’s photo and bio.
To maintain ratification status, handlers must continue to be a paid member in good standing, teams must provide (and report) at least 1 hour of pet therapy every six months, and the animal must have an annual health screening (with a fecal float test) performed by a veterinarian.
Teams that are not able to perform any pet therapy visits in a 6-month period will need to successfully complete the Prescreen temperament evaluation to regain their ratification status.
Teams that are not able to perform any pet therapy visits in a 12-month period are considered retired, and would need to go back through the entire PeTS ratification process before being able to resume pet therapy visits.
Who Can Volunteer?
- Must be companion dogs or cats.
- No breed restrictions.
- Service or other working dogs are not eligible.
- Must be at least 24-months old at the time of their first Prescreen evaluation.
- Must be friendly with people of all ages and races, and enjoy being touched by strangers.
- Must be non-aggressive towards animals of all sizes and species.
- 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 when meeting new people.
- Must be in good health, free of parasites and not taking antibiotics for a minimum of 7 days prior to PeTS events.
- Must be at least 18 years old.
- Junior handlers (age 16+) are permitted but must be in the company of an adult member at all PeTS events.
- Must have bonded with their animal for at least 6 months prior to the initial Prescreen evaluation.
- 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.
- Must be willing and able to comply with all policies of PeTS and our partner facilities.
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 non-offensive topics.
Visits are typically an hour long, but the time may vary based on the animal’s endurance and enjoyment during a visit. We do not recommend visits exceed 2 hours within a 24-hour period, and recommend that newer teams schedule days-off between visits. Types of pet therapy visits include:
- 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.
- One-to-many 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 or at a stressbuster event like Homeless Connect. This type of format works well for larger groups (20+ clients), as it provides a change for all clients to interact with at least one therapy animal during the hour.