About Our Program
Visiting nearly 50 different facilities a year, animal therapy spreads far beyond hospital walls. Whether it is helping a child learn to read or helping a grown man learn to walk again - with over 150 teams, these animals and their handlers are making a powerful impact. Visit our Services and Programs page to learn more about our programs throughout the community.
Learn more about the Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy program through the eyes of it's real stars - the therapy animals.
Contact Our Animal Therapy Program
For more information about the Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy, please contact our Program Director, Stephanie Perkins or our Program Coordinator, Heather Gainey at 850-431-5352.
Animal Therapy Program
Courthouse Therapy Dogs
Thank you for your interest in becoming a trained animal therapy team! It is a rewarding experience that we have found can bring great joy to both the recipients of our services and the therapy animals and their caregivers.
Want more details on volunteering? Learn more about becoming a volunteer.
Maintaining Active Status
In order to maintain active status, Animal Therapy volunteers should contribute a minimum of 10 direct contact hours per calendar year. We have found that animals who visit less frequently may not keep up their social skills, resulting in anxiety on their part and less enjoyment for the both of you.
Group and individual visit hours are both considered direct contact (i.e. interaction of your animal with facility residents). Indirect hours are for activities (with or without your animal) that do not involve direct contact with facility residents. Examples of indirect activities would be: shadow visits, representing the program at a community event (e.g. Walk for Alzheimer’s, animal therapy demonstrations, etc.), assisting in a training class, serving on our advisory board, etc.
Reporting Your Volunteer Hours
At the end of each month, you will be asked to report your volunteer hours, including group, individual and indirect service hours. Even though visits may last an hour, please round up to the nearest hour for tracking purposes.
Please use this online form to submit your hours.
The group visitation schedule is posted by the Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy program management here on the website once each quarter. Each month, groups of four to six Animal Therapy teams visit various Leon County facilities under the supervision of a group leader for 20 to 40 minutes. The group leader signs in and out on behalf of the group.
It is a good idea to let the group leader know if it is your first time visiting a given facility – they can alert you to any special features of the facility. It is VERY important to arrive outside the facility 10-15 minutes prior to the scheduled time so the animals can “greet” each other before encountering facility residents.
Typically the group visit takes place in a central location (e.g. activity room, courtyard, etc.) and facility staff members are responsible for bringing interested residents to the designated area. During a group visit, each Animal Therapy volunteer introduces their animal partner, maybe demonstrates a trick or two, and then the team members circulate through the room to interact with the residents.
Download the Group Visit Schedule.
Is it time to say goodbye to your beloved companion? The following resources are here to help pet owners through that difficult process.
Is It Time to Say Goodbye?
A Guide for Considering a Difficult Decision for Your Pet
By Timothy J. O'Brien, M.S.
The Quality of Life Assessment Graph
Six Questions Worksheet
Encounters with Rikki by Julie Strauss Bettinger tells the true story of the incredible partnership between Chuck and Rikki, a very special rescue dog. Rikki first found her home with Chuck and Patty Mitchell in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Even though the golden retriever was a shy, shell-shocked puppy still adapting to the stress of displacement, Chuck recognized her innate abilities as a therapy dog. Together they bring healing and hope to recovering patients, accident victims, and the mentally ill. Soon Rikki’s quiet confidence attracts the attention of advocates of child victims. Called upon to testify in court, child witnesses must recall horrific memories in the presence of their abusers; the tireless work of Chuck and Rikki allows these children to do so with a therapy dog by their side. Inspiring and heartfelt, Rikki’s story illustrates the far-reaching effects of the human-animal bond.
Encounters with Rikki is available through all major booksellers, including Amazon, or direct from the publisher.