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Becoming a Pet Therapy Team

September 15, 2016

If you’ve spent any time around Orlando Health you’ve probably bumped into a therapy dog.  The Paws for Hope Pet Therapy Program at Orlando Health has close to 60 therapy dogs walking the hospital halls visiting patients, family members and staff. If you’ve been the lucky recipient of a therapy dog visit, you know it’s a sweet retreat from the stresses of being at that hospital.

Often after a visit, people will ask how to get involved in pet therapy as they either have a dog they think is a good fit, or hope to acquire a dog that would be suitable. Here are some need-to-know tips for anyone considering volunteering as a pet therapy team at Orlando Health.

Do you have a therapy dog?

Your dog may really love you but does it love everyone, all the time, in any situation or circumstance? A therapy dog is very calm and demonstrates undiscriminating love and affection for everyone. In addition to loving everyone, do they willingly seek out people to interact with? Are they obedient, controllable, well-mannered? Are they nonreactive to loud noises, large equipment, new places and other dogs? If you’ve answered yes to these questions, you may just have a good candidate for therapy work.

Getting Registered

Before you can volunteer with your dog at Orlando Health, you must be registered with one of three national therapy dog organizations. A registration says that you and your dog are a team and have the skills necessary to safely interact with individuals in physically, emotionally, or mentally challenging situations. These organizations also carry an insurance policy for you that covers you and your dog when you volunteer. These organizations include –

Therapy Dogs International   

Pet Partners  

Alliance of Therapy Dogs

Each organization has a slightly different process for registration, so it is best to check out each one and pick the one that suits you best.

Contact Us

Once you have successfully completed the national registration process, please contact the Volunteer Manager at the Orlando Health hospital where you wish to volunteer with your dog. We’ll have you come in for an interview and determine if you and your dog are a good fit for the hospital environment.

To participate in Orlando Health’s Paws for Hope Program you must also be at least 18 years old, owned your dog for at least a year, and be able to fully bathe and groom your dog before each visit. We also ask that you make a commitment to visit the hospital at least twice a month.

Therapy dogs are in high demand these days. The hospital is just one type of facility that welcomes therapy dogs. Some dogs love to work in the hospital, others not so much. What’s most important is that you and your dog volunteer at a facility and with a patient population that works well for both of you. Pet therapy works best with a happy and confident dog and handler.