Frequently Asked Questions and Definitions
What is the difference between Service, Therapy, and Emotional Support Animals?
A Service Dog is trained to assist someone with a disability. The dog may go anywhere with the person just as they might take a cane or wheelchair. Often they are called assistance dogs and provide a particular service for their owner such as a guide dog or a medical alert dog. The dog must be trained for the particular help it gives its owner.
An Emotional Support Dog acts in much the same way as a service dog in that it provides a service to its owner though it is not trained for a particular behavior. The dog needs to be prescribed by a medical professional. An emotional support dog is considered by the public as more of a pet than a service dog therefore more restrictions may apply.
A Therapy Dog comforts people other than its owner. They are frequently invited to schools, universities, libraries, assisted living facilities and hospitals. Most institutions require that the dog and handler team be registered with an organization such as Pet Partners or Alliance of Therapy Dogs. The registration insures that the team has the right temperament and training to pass a therapy dog evaluation. They also provide insurance. Therapy dogs have no special rights to take their dogs places where dogs are not allowed. Therapy dogs are treated like pets.
Can my therapy animal go everywhere with me?
No, therapy dogs have no special rights to go places that don’t allow pets. They must be invited. For example, therapy dogs are invited to the library to listen to children read to them (Paws to Read) and to student unions for anti-stress events.
Once registered, you can only use your dog as a therapy dog when you are volunteering. You cannot take your dog to work and be covered by a therapy pet organization’s insurance.
Can my therapy animal come to work with me?
While some employers will allow a staff member to bring a therapy animal into the work setting, most of the organizations that register therapy animals don’t allow your work environment to be included in their registration. This is due to insurance and liability concerns. Therefore, if you want to use your therapy animal while working will need to make sure you have adequate personal insurance and that the employer is aware that the therapy animal registration certification does not extend to the work environment.
Do I need to take a class in order to register with my pet?
No, you can train your animal yourself. Most organizations that register therapy dogs require a online course and test or a classroom course. In any case, be sure you are aware of the specific requirements needed for the evaluation. A class can be helpful as it teaches the specifics of the test and exposes your dog to a social environment with other dogs and people.
What training classes would help me to succeed as a therapy team?
Start training your dog as soon as you can. Take a Puppy Class or start with Obedience if the dog is over 6 months old. Train for a Canine Good Citizen Test. Once you pass that, or feel your dog could pass that, your dog is ready for specific therapy dog training such as getting used to walkers and wheelchairs, big hugs from strangers, loud noises and the like.
Where can I volunteer with my therapy animal in Northern Arizona?
Visit our Volunteer Locally page for a full list of facilities and programs where you can volunteer with your pet.
There are constantly new requests and some teams like to find their own niche. It’s worth going to a place that interests you to see if they would like to have a visit from a therapy dog!
What do my pet and I do while volunteering?
Volunteers and their pets usually participate in Animal Assisted Activity, which simply means you and your pet are just there to provide company and cheer people up by providing physical and emotional contact with an animal that is friendly and enjoys being petted. In some facilities or cases, the visits are supervised by health care professionals who request you and your pet assist patients with specific tasks. These visits are known as Animal Assisted Therapy and have specific therapeutic goals, which integrate your visit into their activities. Such visits can include having patients walk the dog on a leash, throw a ball, pick up and put down an animal etc.
Are there dog breed restrictions for therapy dogs?
No, any breed or mixed breed can be a therapy dog. However, The only dogs not eligible are those that have been trained as attack dogs or in canine sports that involve bite work.
Are there age limits for handlers?
Yes, each registering organization has its own restrictions. Pet Partners requires that children must be 10 years to be evaluated. Then, when volunteering, they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian until they are 16.
Are there age limits for pets?
A dog must be one year old and with you for at least 6 months to take the evaluation and become a registered therapy pet. There is no upward age limit for dogs.
What pets can be registered as therapy pets?
Therapy pets can include domestic pets and farm animals such as dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, pot-bellied pigs, llamas, horses, and donkeys. Wild animals, such as hawks, wild hares etc, cannot be registered.
What organizations register therapy animals?
In Flagstaff, we train and register with pet partners – petpartners.org
There are other organizations including Alliance of Therapy dogs – therapydogs.com
Therapy Pets Unlimited http://therapypetsunlimited.org
Therapy Dog International http://tdi-dog.org
Where can I get a pet therapy vest?
If you are registered with a national organization, they usually sell scarves or vests with their logo.
If you are currently volunteering in Northern AZ and you sign up with us, we highly recommend getting one of our vests or scarves and a handler’s T shirt.
How do I choose a therapy pet?
Look for an animal that is gentle but also engaging and likes people. The animal must be able to stay calm in all sorts of situations and be mellow around other animals. Some dogs take a long time to mature and may not be calm enough until they are 4 or 5 years old. Other dogs don’t start their therapy dog careers until much later!
What is the cost of getting my pet register to be a therapy dog?
Every organization has their own fee schedule for the evaluation and the registration. There is also a fee for any online or classroom courses. Additionally, you will need a health certificate and negative fecal test from your veterinarian. Any therapy dog classes you take will also have a fee. Most organizations require a re-evaluation and will charge a renewal registration fee very few years. We estimate a cost of between $180-$240 for full registration. Go to the organization of your choice for exact costs.
Are there scholarships available?
Therapy Pets of Northern Arizona considers a few teams each year for scholarship to cover the costs of registration. The team must first pass the evaluation and have a site secured where they want to volunteer.