You all know me as the co-founder of Real Dog Moms of Chicago, but did you know that my full time job is working as the Program Manager for Pet Partner of Illinois? With the current concern of the spread of COVID - 19 we are all sitting at home with our pets and seeking ways to keep ourselves busy. Eventually “normal” life will resume (it has to, right?) and we will seek wonderful new experiences to put the past behind us. I’d like to share one way I think you could spend your time now while at home following best practices to keep our community safe: become a registered therapy animal team. Since Pet Partners was the first in the industry to require training for the human end of the leash, now is the perfect time to take our online training course.
Who is Pet Partners?
Pet Partners® is the leading Therapy Animal Organization in the U.S. and offers the first comprehensive, standardized training in animal-assisted activities and therapy for volunteers and health-care professionals. Pet Partners’ Therapy Animal Program represents the best that the field of animal-assisted interventions has to offer. Volunteers in the Therapy Animal Program interact with a wide variety of clients, including veterans with PTSD, seniors living with Alzheimer’s, students with literacy challenges, patients in recovery, people with intellectual disabilities, and those approaching end of life. In the more than forty years since our organization’s inception, science has proven the benefits of animal therapy are indisputable.
As the requests for therapy dog visits to these vulnerable populations grow, we need to increase our volunteer base. We receive more requests than we have available teams. For example, we only have 35 teams in Chicago’s city limits, which is where we receive the largest number of requests. The number one task in my role is to find more teams to become registered with us. This is where you come in! Hello, real dog mommas of Chicago ;-)
So why become registered with Pet Partners? Because as a pet parent, you know the feeling—that undeniable boost to your mood and spirit you feel when you’re with your pet. There is no such thing as a bad day when they’re around. Every year, thousands of Pet Partners volunteer handlers around the world share the gift of bringing joy and improved outcomes to millions of people. I’m betting you’re here because you share this vision and want to help improve lives in your community.
To become a volunteer therapy animal team with Pet Partners and begin visiting, you and your pet will first need to complete our registration process. We use this process to be sure your pet is healthy and well-behaved, and that you have the right training too.
Criteria for Prospective Therapy Animals
Pet Partners Therapy Animals must meet the following criteria:
Is your dog not ready yet? Too young or not trained? Click here for next steps to consider.
Not sure YOU are ready yet? Need to learn more about Canine Body Language? Here’s our portal of online courses to help you better prepare to become a Therapy Animal team.
I’m definitely ready to get started. What’s next?
Create an account
Create your online account in the Volunteer Center – you’ll need the account for each step of your registration. Go to petpartners.org > My Registrations, click Start a Team Registration, and provide basic information for yourself and your animal. Once you complete step 3, you’ll be able to access the calendar through the Training Center and register for a workshop or evaluation. Once you’ve completed your registration, you’ll log in to find additional resources, tools, and support.
Take the Pet Partners Handler Course
The key to safe, effective visits is the training for the “human end of the leash”– you. The Handler Course is not an animal training course. Instead, you’ll learn your responsibilities and expectations for successfully volunteering as a Pet Partners handler in any facility you wish to visit.
The course can be taken either in-person, if a volunteer instructor lives in your area, or online. The in-person course is a great opportunity to ask questions of an experienced Pet Partners volunteer and make connections in your local community. However, there might not always be a course in your area at a time that works in your schedule, so the online course is a great alternative. Log into the volunteer center > Courses and Events > My Courses and Events > Select “Therapy Animal Handler Course” Bundle (Handler Course + SHEA Training Set Canine Body Language & Infection Prevention) this will save you money on the online course work.
You must complete and pass either an online or in-person Handler Course before attending your team evaluation. ** Please note, and this is helpful during COVID-19, once you complete your online handler course you have 2 years to complete your in person evaluation. There will be an evaluation backlog once we get back up and running in our communities.
Complete your Pet Partners Animal Health Screening Form
Our Animal Health Screening Form will be signed by your veterinarian, confirming that your animal is healthy and able to participate in the program. The form is available as part of your online registration process. Only the official Pet Partners Animal Health Screening Form is acceptable documentation to meet this requirement.
Sign up for and attend your Team Evaluation
This is the moment of truth when you and your pet demonstrate that together you can conduct safe and effective visits. The team evaluation is a simulated therapy animal visit conducted by a Pet Partners volunteer team evaluator. Remember, you must complete and pass your Handler Course before the date of your team evaluation. To sign up for a team evaluation, click the Calendar or By Location link to the left to search for events in your area. If you are a new handler, your handler training must be successfully completed before evaluating with your animal. What to bring to your evaluation.
REAL DOG MOMS OF CHICAGO
Our goal is to connect dog rescues, dog-friendly businesses & dog lovers. Based in Chicago, Illinois, we host fun events for dogs & humans at great places with all proceeds going to local dog rescues.