Below is a list of the most common questions we receive. If your question is not answered here, please send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be glad to help you!
Q: What are the criteria for prospective therapy animals and handlers?
A: Please review the criteria here:
Q: How do I train my animal to be a therapy animal?
A: Socialization and training are key for a good therapy animal, or any pet. Teach your animal to be comfortable with children, adults, senior citizens, and strangers. Introduce your animal to people wearing hats or sunglasses or carrying umbrellas or using walkers or wheelchairs. Take your animal to different locations to train. Many pet stores and feed and farm stores allow animals as do some home improvement stores. There are also many outdoor shopping centers that are pet friendly and some even allow animals in the stores – this allows your animal to become used to a variety or people and other animals. (Always check to make sure your animal is welcome.) Make sure your animal is comfortable being touched by a variety of people and is used to loud noises or strange sights. Your animal must also be able to ignore other animals who are in close proximity.
Some handlers and dogs benefit from basic obedience classes, as the Pet Partners evaluation tests basic skills, such as sit, stay, come, walk nicely on a leash, down, and leave it. Be sure that you, or any trainers you work with, always using positive reinforcement methods. Taking an obedience course also assists with the socialization part of therapy work. We highly suggest that you take the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. It gives you a good idea of how you and your dog do in a testing situation, and is a good basis on which to build your therapy dog skills.
Q: Does Denver Pet Partners train animals to be therapy animals?
A: No, we train the handler, and the trainer trains his or her own animal with or without help from a trainer.
Q: Can animals other than dogs be therapy animals?
A: Yes, Denver Pet Partners evaluates and accepts for membership any of the species that Pet Partners registers: dogs, cats, equines, rabbits, guinea pigs, llamas and alpacas, birds, pigs, and rats.
Q: Are there breed restrictions?
A: No, but facilities might have restrictions on which breeds or species can visit, and some municipalities do not allow certain breeds in their boundaries. Both purebred and mixed-breed animals can be registered therapy animals.
Q: Is there an age limit for my animal?
A: Your animal must be at least one year of age to be evaluated. There is no upper limit on how old your animal can be, but please consider your animal’s well-being when deciding to volunteer with an older animal. Many visits involve much walking and standing, and being touched by many different people. That can be uncomfortable for an older dog who might have arthritis or other health concerns.
Q: Can my child volunteer with our animal?
A: Children as young as 10 can take our handler’s workshop, but children under 16 must have a parent or guardian take the class with them (both the child and the parent or guardian must enroll for the class and pay for it) and must have a parent or guardian present at their team evaluation. Although those under 18 can become handlers, it might be difficult to find a facility that will allow someone under 18 to volunteer. Anyone under 18 must have their parent or guardian’s permission to participate in training classes or team evaluations.
Q: Can my spouse/partner/child and I volunteer with the same animal?
A: Yes, but each person must take the handler training and each person must pass the team evaluation with the animal. Pet Partners registers animal/handler teams, so each person must be registered with each animal they will volunteer with.
Q: Can I volunteer with more than one animal?
A: Yes, but you must pass the team evaluation with each animal. Pet Partners registers animal/handler teams, so each person must be registered with each animal they will volunteer with.
Q: Do you train, register, or provide service animals?
Q: What is the difference between a service animal, an emotional support animal, and a therapy animal?
A: Please refer to this information
Q: Can my animal be a therapy animal if he is fed a raw protein diet?
A: No, any animal fed any raw protein from an animal source, or who lives with an animal who is fed raw protein from an animal source, including beef, chicken, pork, fish, raw eggs, or other domesticated or wild animal meat, cannot participate in the Pet Partners program. This includes raw proteins that are dehydrated, pasteurized (except certain acceptable dairy products), freeze dried, frozen or fresh. It also includes treats such as pig’s ears, raw bones, marrow bones, etc.
Q: What is the cost of becoming a registered therapy animal/handler team?
A: The initial cost ranges between $225 and $275:
- Handler training: $100 for the in-person workshop or $70 for the online course
- Team evaluation: $25 for any team, whether new or renewing
- Registration with Pet Partners: New therapy animal team with one animal: $95 for your initial registration (two years) if you are not a DPP member, $50 if you are a DPP member
- Membership with DPP (optional): $45 for the first year, $25 per year after the first year
- Vest for your animal: Although a vest is not required, most handlers opt to purchase a vest for their dog or larger animal and many facilities require the dog to wear a vest or bandana that identifies the animal as a therapy animal. The cost of a vest ranges from $30 to $50 depending on the options selected. DPP provides a vest to members who are registered Pet Partner teams.
Q: What formal training must the handler have?
A: The handler must take either the online handler training class or the in-person workshop and then pass the Pet Partners Handler Course Assessment. In order to evaluate with their animals, handlers must present the Course Completion Certificate.
Q: What is the difference between the online handler training class and the in-person workshop?
A: The online class is offered by Pet Partners. It is a self-guided class that you take at any time. The in-person workshop contains course material selected by Pet Partners but is sponsored by Denver Pet Partners and taught by instructors who are Denver Pet Partners members. The instructors have many years of experience as therapy animal handlers, instructors, and team evaluators and provide insights and information not available in the online class. The workshop is quite interactive – there are many demonstrations of proper handling techniques and of the team evaluation test, a chance to ask questions and get advice, and the opportunity to meet current and future Denver Pet Partners members. Students generally get more out of the workshop than the online class and we highly recommend it. We recommend the online course for those who live too far from an instructor or who cannot attend the workshop on the days it is offered. Please note that the in-person workshop is for people only – you do not bring your animal to the workshop.
Q: Is there a manual?
A: Students receive a copy of the handler’s manual at the in-person workshop. If you take the online class, you must purchase the manual through the Pet Partners web site.
Q: How soon after I take the class can I evaluate with my animal?
A: Denver Pet Partners typically holds evaluations two weeks after each workshop. You can evaluate as soon as this or wait until a later date. It depends on whether or not you think you and your animal are ready to evaluate.
Q: For how long is my training valid?
A: If you do not pass your evaluation within two years of completing the workshop or online course, you must take the class again.
Q: How do I sign up for a workshop or evaluation?
A: You can see a list of future workshops and evaluations, and sign up for them, on this page:
Q: What kinds of things do you test in a team evaluation?
A: The evaluation tests both you and your animal’s aptitude to be a therapy animal team as well as testing the basic skills required to be a team. Both you and are your animal are scored.
You can see a list of the evaluation exercises for dogs here:
You can see a sample score sheet for dogs here:
Q: What is the difference between the Predictable rating and the Complex rating?
A: When you and your animal pass your evaluation, you will receive an overall team rating of either Predictable or Complex. A small percentage of teams receive the Complex rating, which indicates they may be suitable to work in more complex settings and situations. Complex settings are those where the facility population itself is unpredictable due to physical and/or emotional challenges, the facility is loud and crowded, and/or staff participation is limited. Regardless of your rating, when considering where to volunteer, keep in mind your abilities and comfort level in different situations as well as your animal’s.
Q: What happens if I do not pass my evaluation?
A: If you or your animal do not pass one of the exercises in the evaluation (both you and your animal are scored), you will be scored Not Ready (N/R) and can evaluate again as soon as the next day (if there is room in the evaluation schedule) or at a future evaluation. There is no limit on the number of times you can evaluate, but you will have to sign up for and pay a registration fee for each future evaluation. Our evaluators will tell you why you were scored N/R and help you understand what you need to work on to be successful at a future evaluation. You will also receive a copy of your score sheet so you can see how you and your animal were scored on each exercise.
If your animal is not suitable to be a therapy animal or you are not suitable to be a handler, you will receive a Not Appropriate (NA) rating and cannot evaluate again. It is very rare for a team to receive this rating.
Q: How long does an evaluation take?
A: Evaluations are scheduled every 45 minutes throughout the day, but typically do not take that long.
Q: Can I sign up for a specific evaluation time?
A: Evaluations are held on selected weekends throughout the year. You sign up for a weekend but can request Saturday or Sunday, AM or PM, for your evaluation. We attempt to schedule you at your requested time but cannot always do so, so we ask that you be available all weekend. We will email you your scheduled time one week before the evaluation.
Q: What paperwork do I need to bring to my team evaluation?
A: You must bring your completed Handler’s Questionnaire (you can obtain a blank version on the Pet Partners site); a completion certificate from the online class or in-person workshop (if you’ve lost your certificate you can request a new one on the Pet Partners site); and a rabies vaccination certificate or an invoice from your vet showing that your animal is up to date on his or her rabies vaccination. A rabies tag alone is not sufficient, nor is an Animal Health Screening form that states the animal is up-to-date on his vaccinations. You do not need to bring the Animal Health Screening form to the evaluation. You will submit that form to Pet Partners after you have passed your evaluation.
Q: When should I have my Animal Health Screening form filled out by my veterinarian?
A: You do not need to bring your health screening form to your evaluation. You will not need this form until you have passed your evaluation and are submitting your paperwork to Pet Partners. Some handlers chose to have this form completed by their vet before the evaluation and others wait until they have passed their evaluation.
Q: What else do I need to bring to my evaluation?
A: There is equipment you must bring to the evaluation. If you do not bring this equipment you cannot be evaluated. You can find the list of required items here:
Q: What kind of equipment can my animal wear for the evaluation and when volunteering?
A: You can find a list of acceptable equipment here
Q: What happens after I pass my team evaluation?
A: After you pass your evaluation, our evaluators will upload your scores to the Pet Partners web site. You must submit your required documents to Pet Partners on their web site. Go to www.PetPartners.org and sign in to the Volunteer Center. From there, you can view your active registrations and submit the paperwork for your animal. You will need to submit your scoresheet (we will give you a copy of this at the completion of your evaluation) , Animal Health Screening form (a blank form can be obtained in the Volunteer Center on the Pet Partners site), and a photo of you and your animal for your Pet Partners ID.
If you join Denver Pet Partners, you will receive a discount on your Pet Partners registration fee. When you join DPP, you will be provided with DPP’s Community Partner Organization number, which will allow you to receive the discounted Pet Partners registration rate.
Q: What happens after I submit my paperwork?
A: Pet Partners will review your paperwork and request payment when your paperwork has been approved. When you have received final approval and are an officially registered team, you will receive a letter through email. You can then start visiting as a volunteer and can use the letter as your ID until your permanent Pet Partners ID arrives in the mail a few weeks later.
Q: How can I order a vest for my animal?
A: If you are a DPP member, you can order a DPP vest for your animal through the DPP website. Log in to the Member Portal to access the vest order form. A vest is not required but many facilities require them and most handlers chose to order a vest for dogs and larger animals. All animals receive a Pet Partners collar tag, which must be worn on a collar or harness when volunteering.
Q: How can I order a Denver Pet Partners shirt for myself?
A: If you are a DPP member, you can order a DPP shirt through the DPP website. Log in to the Member Portal to access the Member Store.
Q: At what facilities do Denver Pet Partners members volunteer?
A: Our volunteers work at many facilities in the metro Denver area and other locations in Colorado. You can see a list of facilities here
Q: How can I find someplace to volunteer with my animal?
A: When you become a DPP member, we can help you find a place to volunteer based on your interests, location, and animal’s abilities. As soon as you are a DPP member, we can arrange for you to shadow a member with their animal at one of the facilities where we volunteer.
Q: How much of a time commitment do I have to make to volunteer?
A: Different facilities and programs have different time requirements. Many prefer that you visit once per week (for a maximum of two hours) but some offer the opportunity to visit once or twice a month. There are also one-time opportunities to visit places like college campuses or community events.
Q: Can I volunteer at more than one facility?
A: You can, but we ask that you follow Pet Partners guidelines and volunteer with your animal for no more than two hours per day. Please consider your animal’s well-being when determining where to volunteer and how often to volunteer. Volunteering many days each week can have more of an effect on your animal than you initially realize.
Q: Do I have to go through any additional screening or testing to volunteer with my animal?
A: Facilities create policies for their volunteers. For example, some may require a background check, TB test, or flu shot, or require you to attend volunteer orientation at the facility.
Q: What equipment will my animal wear when volunteering?
A: Pet Partners requires your animal to wear a Pet Partners collar tag when volunteering. (You will receive this tag when you pass your evaluation and register with Pet Partners.) Most handlers chose to order a vest for their dog or larger animals and many facilities require therapy animals to wear a vest or bandana that identifies the animal as a therapy animal. Denver Pet Partners has their own vest for members’ animals.
There is a list of acceptable equipment that describes acceptable collars, leashes, and harness. You can review the list here:
Please note that animals cannot wear costumes or clothing when volunteering. They may wear a decorative bandanna.
Q: Do I need to wear special clothing when volunteering?
A: Many facilities have policies about what clothing volunteers must wear. For example, most hospitals provide a hospital volunteer shirt and require you to wear khaki (chino) pants. Open-toed shoes, sandals, shorts, sleeveless shirts, etc. are never appropriate when volunteering with your animal. Jeans are usually not appropriate but are permitted in certain situations. If you are volunteering at a facility that does not provide a shirt, we ask that you wear a Denver Pet Partners shirt.
Q: What is the difference between Pet Partners and Denver Pet Partners?
A: Pet Partners is the national organization that registers therapy animal/handler teams. They develop the training materials for handler training classes and set standards for team evaluations, register instructors and team evaluators, and provide liability insurance to registered teams. They also provide online trainer for prospective and current handlers.
Denver Pet Partners (DPP) is a Community Partner Organization (CPO) of Pet Partners. DPP provides support to teams working in the metro Denver area and other areas of Colorado. DPP holds training workshops and team evaluations, manages programs at a variety of facilities in the Denver area, provides support to its members, and provides an additional one million dollars of liability insurance to its members. DPP receives no financial support from Pet Partners and all of the work done by DPP is done by volunteers, not paid employees.
Q: What is the difference between Pet Partners and other therapy animal organizations?
A: Pet Partners sets high standards for their therapy animal/handler teams. They require handlers to take a training class and pass a comprehensive evaluation with their animals before they can be a registered team. Handlers must be re-evaluated with their animals every two years to remain registered.
Q: Why do I have to be registered with Pet Partners if I have already trained with another therapy animal organization?
A: If you plan on volunteering at a facility that requires teams to be registered with Pet Partners, you must take the Pet Partners training workshop (or online class) and be evaluated by a Pet Partners evaluator. Pet Partners training and evaluations are generally more extensive than those of other therapy animal organizations, and you cannot be registered with Pet Partners without going through the training and evaluation. Any training or registration you have received from a different organization does not qualify you to be registered with Pet Partners.
Q: Can I attend a DPP meeting even if I am not a member?
A: Yes, we welcome guests at our meetings. You can find the date and location of future meetings on our web site on the Events Calendar.
Q: For how long is my Pet Partners registration valid?
A: Your registration is valid for two years. After that time (or before that time is up), you must re-evaluate with your animal and submit your paperwork to Pet Partners again. Your registration expiration date is on your Pet Partners ID.
Q: For how long is my DPP membership valid?
A: DPP memberships are valid for one year. You must renew your membership every year to be a member in good standing and remain on our email distribution list.
Q: Do I need to take the training class again to renew my Pet Partners registration?
A: If your registration expired more than two years ago, you will need to take the class again.
Q: How do I sign up for a team evaluation to renew my registration?
A: You can see a list of future workshops and evaluations, and sign up for them, here:
Q: My animal and I are already registered with Pet Partners and now I’d like to register a new animal. What do I do?
A: You must evaluate with your new animal and then submit the animal’s paperwork to Pet Partners.
Q: What kinds of things should I work on with my animal for our re-evaluation?
A: You can find some tips for being successful at your re-evaluation here:
Q: How Do I Arrange for a Therapy Dog Visit at My Facility or Home?
A: Unfortunately, we cannot make visits to private homes or perform one-of visits to facilities at which we do not have a program. To arrange a facility visit, contact Susan Horecki, Program Director, SusanHorecki@DenverPetPartners.org