Become a Registered Pet Partners Therapy Animal Team


Program Requirements

Therapy, Service and Emotional Support Animals

Acceptable Equipment

Handler Course

Team Evaluation

Animal Health Screening

The Next Steps


We are excited that you are interested in becoming a registered Pet Partners therapy animal team. There are many facilities that can't find even a single team to visit.

We founded our local Pet Partners organization, Columbia River Pet Partners, with the primary goal of increasing the number of therapy animal teams volunteering in our communities. So needless to say, we would be pleased to guide you through the process.

It takes a number of steps and a good bit of work to become a registered team. Carefully read this page and follow all the links and read those pages too, and watch all the videos. You will learn about Pet Partners and the steps necessary to become a registered team.

You will then be able to decide if this is something you really want to do, and if you and your animal are well-suited for this highly rewarding work.

Hint:  If you have a big heart, a little spare time and a well-behaved animal, you're probably a good fit!

We would be happy to answer any questions.

Columbia River Pet Partners
Contact Us

This video presents an overview of Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program

Program Requirements

Carefully review the criteria for prospective therapy animals and handlers on the Pet Partners website:

Program Requirements

Handler Course, Team Evaluation, and Registration Fees

While all elements of the Program Requirements are important, we would like to point out a few which have been key in excluding individuals from participation.

1. Species:  Pet Partners accepts dogs (any breed), cats, birds, guinea pigs, pot-bellied pigs, rabbits, horses, llamas, alpacas and rats.

2. Raw Meat Diet:  Animals may not be on a raw meat diet. It's the same concern you have preparing chicken on your kitchen counter, then preparing a salad in the same spot. We don't want our animals' mouths carrying something that could be harmful to our clients, especially when so many have weakened immune systems.

3. Aggression:  Animals may not have a history of aggression, or of injuring either people or other companion animals.

4. No Chain in Collars and Leashes:  Metal chain is not allowed in collars and leashes. It doesn't have the warm, welcoming look Pet Partners would like to project.

5. 2-Hour Visit Limit:  As our animals must constantly obey us while visiting, the work is stressful for them and our visiting is limited to 2 hours per day.

6. 24-Hour Bathing Policy:  Pet Partners' policy is that your animal should be bathed within 24 hours of a visit and kept clean until the visit. However, there can be exceptions. For example, if you visit frequently, it might be impractical or harmful for your animal to be bathed before each visit. If this is an issue for you, please discuss it with us.

You may also be interested in these topics:

Requests to Visit a Friend or Relative

Taking Your Therapy Animal to Work With You

And before going any further, you should also carefully read:

Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program Policies and Procedures

Do not skip over the Policies and Procedures as you might a Facebook or Amazon user agreement. You must comply with them on every visit with your therapy animal.

Therapy, Service and Emotional Support Animals

Introduction to Therapy Animals presents an overview of therapy animal work including how they heal, where they serve, and the attributes of a great therapy animal and handler.

Introduction to Therapy Animals

But you need to know more!

Once you start visiting, you will occasionally be asked if your animal is a service animal. It's important that you understand the difference between therapy and service animals.

But you need to know still more!

You will undoubtedly meet someone who tells you their animal is a therapy animal. You will ask who they are registered with, and they will reply that they have a letter from their doctor.

Say what? You could hardly say they are wrong. Their doctor's letter explains that their animal is needed for mental therapy, and refers to the animal as a therapy animal. But is it?

In fact, their animal is an emotional support animal.

You will learn about the differences between all three types of animals here:

Service, Emotional Support and Therapy Dogs

Acceptable Equipment

This video discusses acceptable and unacceptable equipment (leashes, collars, harnesses and brushes) for use on visits and during your evaluation.

Toward the end of the video the narrator states, "Remember, whatever equipment you evaluate in is the equipment you are to visit in." It should state, "whatever type of equipment you evaluate in is the type of equipment you are to visit in."

For example, you can evaluate with a 4' leash, but visit with a 6' leash; replace your leash with a leash of a similar type; replace your harness with a harness of a similar type; and so on.

Handler Course

The Handler Course is the first step for anyone interested in volunteering with their pet. It fulfills the handler training required to continue on to the Pet Partners Team Evaluation and registration.

The course provides the information and training necessary to prepare you to volunteer effectively with your animal as a Pet Partners therapy animal team in a variety of environments.

Pet Partners does not train animals because only basic obedience and socialization are required. You can train your animal yourself, attend obedience classes, or hire a trainer.

If you have a puppy, you may find this helpful:

Preparing Your Puppy to be a Therapy Dog

The Handler Course may be taken either on-line or in an in-person workshop. The $70 on-line course is self-paced, and you can take it over a day, weekend or a few weeks.

At the conclusion of either the on-line course or in-person workshop, you must pass an on-line test in order to receive your certificate of completion. You can study further and re-take the test if necessary.

You do not have to be capable of passing the Team Evaluation (next topic) before you enroll in the Handler Course. In fact, very often people take the Handler Course when their animals are still very young. This way they better understand what they have to work toward.

Note, however, that you must complete your Team Evaluation and registration within 2 years of completing the Handler Course or you will have to re-take it.

Team Evaluation

This video provides a demonstration of a Pet Partners evaluation and will give you an idea of how an evaluation is conducted. Total playtime for segments 1 through 22 is 16 minutes, and segments 23 through 27 for small dogs and cats take another 5 minutes.

After taking the Handler Course, you will find How to Prepare for a Pet Partners Team Evaluation extremely helpful. It discusses what you need to do to prepare for a Pet Partners Team Evaluation, with tips on the specific exercises.

How to Prepare for a Pet Partners Team Evaluation

You might think it a no-brainer to sign up to evaluate a few weeks after your Handler Course, but we would like to explain why we do not believe it is a good idea.

We know from experience that students who sign up to evaluate before they have practiced all of the evaluation exercises often drop out before their evaluation date. This not only creates havoc with evaluation scheduling, but is inconsiderate to those who were forced to find other evaluations. These people have the best of intentions when they sign up, but life gets in the way of their plans to practice or their animal doesn't perform as anticipated.

Therefore we discourage teams from signing up before they have practiced and feel they are prepared to evaluate. We recognize that this lengthens the process, but it's a one-time process that we believe to be well worth the time and effort.

Also, often teams that fail their first evaluations never return to try again.

You can sign up for an evaluation anytime you like. Our opinion is only meant to suggest a course of action we believe will help ensure your success.

Animal Health Screening

Completing the Animal Health Screening form is a quick and simple step in the process of becoming a registered team. It's a simple form that your vet signs to verify that your animal is in good health.

It comes early in the list of registration steps on the Pet Partners website, but in fact doesn't need to be completed until you are completing your registration after you have passed your evaluation.

However, it is valid for a full year from the date your vet signs it. So if you are going to the vet for a healthy check-up and think you might be evaluating within the year, you might as well have your vet sign the form.

Also, if your last trip to the vet was for a healthy check-up within the past year, it probably won't be necessary to have another check-up. Just ask your vet to sign the form.

Animal Health Screening forms are available to download in the on-line registration process on the Pet Partners website.

The Next Steps

If you have carefully read the above, followed all the links and watched all the videos, and you didn't see anything to make you think otherwise, you are ready to sign up for the Handler Course.

1. Columbia River Pet Partners does not register teams; we help those interested through the process of registering with the Pet Partners national organization.

To register for the Handler Course, go to the Pet Partners national website at Click on Log In, and then Create a Volunteer Account, to begin the registration process.

2. Anytime you have a question, please feel free to contact us via this website and our Contact Us link.

3. If you live in the greater Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA area, you are welcome to subscribe to our free newsletter via our Contact Us link. It includes announcements of events teams can attend, new requests from facilities wanting teams to visit, and lots of fun photos.

This reading has not only given you a valuable introduction to the Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program, but has helped to ensure that it is a program you are fully invested in and capable of pursuing. We are confident you will find volunteering with your animal to be rewarding beyond your greatest expectations.

Peter and Mukaluka Dirtypaws at Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital