Cats and dogs are some of the more common animals that become therapy pets. All pet owners know the unconditional affection and devotion that having a pet around brings. They offer joy and companionship whether having struggled through a bad day or when feeling alone. Valued pets can also become certified therapy animals with a little training. Being around therapy cats or dogs proves beneficial for people of any age living with a developmental disorder. Therapy pets also often pay visits to retirement facilities, hospitals and schools.
Pet Certification Requirements
Owners interested in training and certifying their cat or dog as a therapy pet must first determine if the animal's temperament is suitable for the job. The pet must be in optimal health and current on vaccinations, which are verifiable with a letter of recommendation from a veterinarian. Some organizations also restrict pets that are on a raw protein diet as the animals then may carry organisms that put people at a higher risk of infection. Various organizations also require that the animal be at least one year of age and have lived with a current owner for at least six months. The cat or dog must also be able to pass a qualifying test by capably demonstrating that it:
• Is well-groomed and pleasant in appearance
• Walks on a leash
• Obeys sit and stay commands
• Comes when called by name
• Does not show aggression
• Remains calm when approached by a stranger
• Quietly allows petting by strangers
• Does not react to other animals
• Pays no attention to distractions
• Accepts supervision and obeys commands from someone other than the owner
Certificate and Training Programs
There are many different organizations located across the United States that assist owners with the training and certification processes. Love on a Leash and Pet Partners are two well-known national organizations that owners might contact. Pet owners might also contact the Pet Partners' Therapy Animal Program, which is considered one of the largest organizations in the United States. Large cities and some smaller communities may also have local facilities that assist owners and pets with the necessary requirements. Once a pet and their owner complete the designated training, the owner and pet undergo evaluation and a trial period performed by an expert trainer while making supervised visits to a local public facility. Once the pet becomes certified, owners may offer their pet services to any number of locations.