The Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program consists of a community of volunteers across the United States. In addition to expanding awareness of the positive impact of the human-animal bond, Pet Partners volunteers strengthen their own communities through volunteerism. Except for a limited staff based at Pet Partners headquarters in Bellevue, WA, the Therapy Animal Program consists almost entirely of volunteers who give of their time to promote safe and effective animal-assisted interventions.
With the most rigorous training in the industry and unparalleled support of our volunteers, we believe that our volunteers are what makes Pet Partners the gold standard among national therapy animal programs.
Therapy animal team handlers are the “human end of the leash” and the role of handler is just as important a role as the animal. While many people believe the work that therapy animals do is magic and you can sit back and let the animal do everything, at Pet Partners we recognize that safe and effective visits are facilitated by knowledgeable and well-prepared handlers who are doing everything they can to set all participants up for success.
The handler has the responsibility of constantly observing and responding to the body language their animal uses to communicate while on visits. They are constantly advocating for and supporting their animal to minimize stress and ensure safety. As if this weren’t enough, they are also interacting with clients using best practices in active listening, people-first language, and protecting the privacy and dignity of all the clients they interact with.
While other programs may claim to evaluate the animal for appropriateness, Pet Partners focuses on the team as a whole. In addition to good basic obedience skills in the animal, we look for handlers who will be able read their animal’s body language and support them accordingly in a multitude of settings, ensuring teams who are well-prepared for a variety of environments.
Experienced therapy animal team handlers who wish to take on a larger leadership role in the Therapy Animal Program may choose to become instructors or team evaluators. These individuals volunteer their time and expertise to prepare handlers and screen teams wishing to register with Pet Partners.
As experienced Pet Partners they understand our focus on proactive handling and safety. Instructors deliver the eight-hour handler workshop in person to prospective handlers, with a focus on preparing handlers for visits and the evaluation, emphasizing safety and professionalism. Team evaluators conduct the one-on-one roleplay-based evaluation, ensuring the team has both the skills and aptitude for therapy animal work.
Just because you don’t have an animal that is currently well suited to therapy work doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the Pet Partners family. Consider offering to be an evaluation assistant for a team evaluator in your area or help support Pet Partners through our signature awareness raising events, such as Treats and Sweets Day!