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Animal Therapy

 
Become A Volunteer

A student participating the R.E.A.D. program, reads to an Animal Therapy dog and his handler.Our volunteers have undergone special training with their animals to become Pet Partner teams. Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy teams are trained according to the Pet Partner standards established by the Delta Society, the international sanctioning organization for more than 11,000 Pet Partner teams from around the world. The animals have passed Pet Partner's nationally recognized skills/aptitude test and they have been examined by a veterinarian to ensure good health.

Here are some things you can practice if you are considering becoming a Pet Partner:

  • Expose your pet to different environments and people of all ages and ethnicities—and do it often! A therapy pet loves interaction with all sorts of people, and is comfortable in many types of settings.

  • Take an additional obedience class if it has been a while since your last one—you can never be too prepared!


Prerequisites

If you are interested in volunteering with a pet, please note the following prerequisites:

  • Your dog must know basic obedience prior to beginning training with Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy.

  • You must have owned your pet for at least six months prior to beginning training with Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy.

  • Your pet must be at least one year of age prior to beginning training with Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy.


Qualifications

An Animal Therapy dog licks a patient.Animal Therapy’s qualifications mirror those of Pet Partners. Please visit www.petpartners.org for more information about Pet Partners.

  • Animal: Only domesticated animal species may become therapy animals. Dogs and cats must be at least one year old by the anticipated date of the formal Pet Partners® evaluation. They must be healthy and free from parasites, disease, and infection. Animals with disabilities will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Dogs that have been trained to aggressively protect and/or have been encouraged to bite, even if it is a component of a dog sport (e.g., bite work that is part of Schutzhund) may not be animal therapy volunteers. Pocket animals must be 6 months of age to participate.

    Important Note: The handler MUST provide a copy of the animal's rabies vaccination record (unless the pet is a species not required by the state of Florida to have a rabies vaccination). A rabies tag is not acceptable. A document signed by a veterinarian is required.

  • Handler: The pet handler must be age 16 or older, OR 10-16 with guardian participation and written permission from a parent or guardian.


Become a Registered TMH Animal Therapy Team

There are several steps to become a registered Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy team:


Step 1 - Pass the initial screening evaluation and reserve your place in a Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy training class

The purpose of Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy’s initial screening evaluation is to determine the readiness and aptitude of your animal to benefit from the training class. Your animal’s basic obedience skills and friendliness toward strangers will be evaluated. The evaluation takes approximately 10 minutes. You will be asked to have your animal perform the following basic commands:

  • Sit,
  • Stay,
  • Down,
  • Come,
  • Walking beside you on a leash without pulling.

Unlike obedience competitions, you and your animal do not have to perform with precision. You will have a 5-week training course to work on any skill deficits. 

We will also observe how your animal reacts during a number of “challenges” including an examination (of paws, eyes, ears, body) by a stranger, a hug by a stranger, and proximity to loud noises and crowds. It is acceptable if the animal is startled by noise, but s/he should recover quickly. Unacceptable behaviors will negate your animal’s acceptance into the Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy program. Unacceptable behaviors include, but are not limited at this time to:

  • snarling,
  • growling,
  • snapping,
  • pawing,
  • extreme nervousness or shyness,
  • excessive barking,
  • signs of aggression towards other dogs or people,
  • jumping up on people or other dogs.

Dogs should be well socialized prior to acceptance into the training classes – obviously, this is important both for those we visit, and for the enjoyment of you and your animal during a visit.

A patient pets an Animal Therapy dog.After successfully passing the initial screening, you reserve your place in Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy’s training class by paying a non-refundable, not-transferable $60 training fee. This fee is applied toward  the Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy’s program costs (including hiring  a certified dog  trainer and providing  handlers a copy of the Pet Partners® Team Training Course Manual).



Step 2 - Attend the Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy training classes

The purpose of the training class is to provide you and your animal with the skills to successfully visit in the facilities serviced by Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy. There are two phases of class instruction:

  • One 8-hour Pet Partners® Workshop, which covers Pet Partners® course training material and an introduction to the many programs offered through Tallahassee Memorial  Animal Therapy

  • Five approximately hour-long weekly sessions attended by you with your dog

In these classes, we provide hands-on practice with things actually encountered in facilities (e.g. wheel chairs, walkers, crowded hallways, etc); role playing with volunteers to practice elements of an actual visit, and other exercises to maximize your skills. There is also a focus on understanding your animal’s “language” and stress signals so that you can effectively and productively manage your animal’s interactions with patients and others. Instructors use patience, praise, and positive training methods to acclimate the animals to the sights, sounds, and smells of an actual Animal Therapy visit. While in training,  you will be required to “shadow” (i.e. observe, without your pet) an actual Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy visit. During classes, there will be an opportunity for you and your animal to practice the skills and behaviors you observed on the shadow visit.

View Training Schedules



Step 3 - Complete Pet Partner’s registration paperwork

During the workshop, you will be given a Pet Partners® Training Manual and a Pet Partners® registration packet. During the Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy training classes, we will assist you in completing the required forms. Completion of the workshop and registration packet is required before we schedule your formal Pet Partners® evaluation. The registration forms are mailed to Pet Partners® after successful completion of the Pet Partners® evaluation.



Step 4 - Pass the formal Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy -administrated, Pet Partners® evaluation

You and your animal will be evaluated in Tallahassee by a licensed Pet Partners® evaluator. The evaluation takes approximately 25 minutes and consists of the Pet Partners® Skills Test (PPST) and the Pet Partners® Aptitude Test (PPAT). Overviews of these two tests are available on the Pet Partner’s website

Animal Therapy dogs and their handler visit the court.After you and your animal successfully pass the formal Pet Partners® evaluation, handlers must pay a separate $95 registration fee to Pet Partners®. Registration is for two years, and provides insurance coverage during official Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy visits. Pet Partners® retains 100 percent of this fee; none is retained by Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy. For seniors, humans with multiple registered animals, and animals with multiple registered humans, there are discounted registration fees. See Pet Partners® fee schedule.



Equipment (required during screening, classes and evaluation)

Acceptable equipment:

  • Premier Gentle Leader Easy-Walk Harness
  • Halti Harness
  • Freedom Harness
  • Sense-ation Harness
  • Sense-ible Harness
  • Body or step-in harnesses (leash clips to a ring on the back of the animal)
  • Buckle, snap, quick-release collars (leather or fabric)
  • Limited slip collars (Martingales), if they do not include metal links
  • Halters/head collars
  • Leashes, no more than 6 feet in length, that are all-leather or all-fabric
  • Metal hardware, such as buckles, slip rings, and D-rings

Unacceptable equipment:

  • Metal collars and harnesses, including martingales with metal links.
  • Slip collars of any type, and “no-pull” or “no-jump” harnesses (e.g. Sporn).
  • Special training collars such as "pinch," "spike," electric, or spray collars.
  • Metal chain and retractable leashes (e.g., Flexi-leash).

Metal and moving parts are unacceptable because they have potential for pinching a facility resident. Moving/slipping parts and long leashes can catch and tangle in facility equipment, putting both your pet and the resident at risk of injury. If your pet needs an item from the list of unacceptable equipment, then your pet is not ready to become a therapy animal.



Food Treats

Treats are NOT allowed during the initial screening or the formal Pet Partners® evaluation. However, they are allowed (and encouraged) during actual Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy visits in facilities and during our training classes. Many Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy handlers utilize small treat bags clipped to a belt.



More Information

For more information about becoming a registered Animal Therapy team, please contact:

Stephanie Perkins
Program Coordinator
Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy
Phone: 850.321.3787
Stephanie.Perkins@tmh.org