PawHow do I get started in Animal-Assisted Therapy?

To become trained and registered, there are four simple steps:

Step 1: Attend a Therapy Animals of Utah Fur-Real Hands-On Handlers Training Course. View our Calendar, or see the Events box for the next course date and a downloadable registration form. Then begin your registration with Pet Partners on their website here.

Step 2: Team Evaluation: Contact director@therapyanimalsutah to schedule your evaluation, or click on the email link in the Events box.  Then go to your page on the  Pet Partners website, click the evaluation date you have arranged, and sign up there.  This will enable us to report your results online and speed up your registration.

Step 3: Health screening for your pet: to be completed by your animal’s veterinarian.

Step 4: Continue your registration through the Pet Partners website (most efficient) or mail a registration packet to them.. They will need your team evaluation score sheets, health certification by your regular veterinarian, a photo for your ID badge, membership fee and other information forms.  If you decide to mail your forms, be sure and make a copy of your membership documents in case they should be lost in the mail.

Therapy Animals of Utah (TAU) members can start participating in Animal-Assisted Therapy or Activities after becoming a registered Pet Partner team. Should you decide to join TAU, we offer site assessments, mentoring, and local support.  We will work with you to find the most ideal volunteer opportunity for you and your animal and will help you learn the best techniques for that opportunity.


PawWhat types of animals can be registered for Animal-Assisted Therapy?

There are many species that make wonderful visiting animals and can form a strong human-animal bond. Only domesticated animals may become Pet Partners.  These include:

  • Dogs (any breed except wolf-hybrids)
  • Cats
  • Potbellied pigs
  • Guinea pigs
  • Miniature pigs
  • Rabbits
  • Domesticated rats
  • Donkeys
  • Mini-horses
  • Horses
  • Birds
  • Llamas
  • Alpacas

Animals that may not be Pet Partners are wild, or exotic animals (e.g., snakes, ferrets, lizards). Pet Partners does not currently register chickens, geese, or ducks.


PawWhat does the Pet Partners program do?

The Pet Partners program trains and screens volunteers and their pets to visit animal programs in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, schools and other facilities. Pet Partners is the only national registry that requires both volunteer training and screening of animal/handler teams. The Pet Partners program was established to ensure that ‘both ends of the leash’, people as well as animals, were well prepared to participate in AAA and AAT programs. Pet Partner’s national network links volunteers with facilities in their own communities that request visiting pets and helps Pet Partner volunteers contact facilities to begin visits in new locations.


PawWhat is Pet Partners?

Therapy Animals of Utah is a proud Community Partner of Pet Partners® (formerly known as Delta Society), one of the leading international resources for promoting the benefits of the human-animal bond. We join with them in their mission as the national leader in demonstrating and promoting positive human-animal interactions to improve the physical, emotional, and psychological lives of those we serve.  Established in 1990 to ensure that “both ends of the leash”, people as well as animals, were well prepared to participate in AAA and AAT programs, Pet Partners is the only national registry that requires standardized volunteer training and evaluation of animal/handler teams.
Pet Partners members visit in hospitals, nursing and rehabilitation centers, schools, libraries, and other facilities. The national network of Pet Partners helps link volunteers and facilities in their own communities and assures professionals that the teams that visit are well trained, reliable, predictable, and appropriate for the task, inspiring confidence in the people they meet.
This organization has been a driving force in validating the positive role animals play in people’s health and well-being through promoting and distributing research in the field. The mission of Pet Partners is to improve human health through service and therapy animals. To find out more about Pet Partners, please visit their web site at:


PawWhere can I participate in Animal-Assisted Therapy with my animal?

Members of TAU can choose from a wide variety of types of site-assessed health, human service, and educational facilities. These include nursing homes, shelters, hospitals, government agencies, psychiatric units, care centers, transitional housing, schools, libraries or anywhere that can benefit by the presence of an animal. Click here to see a list of facilities where we currently visit.


PawWhat costs are involved in getting registered?

There is a charge for the Pet Partners® Handler Training Course and the team evaluation (see below). After that, all TAU-related training and support is free.
The Pet Partners Handler Training Course is $65.00, which includes the Pet Partners Student Guide, handouts, eight hours of interactive instruction by Pet Partners licensed instructors, continental breakfast, lunch, and snacks.
Pet Partners-sponsored team evaluation is $30.00 (includes three attempts)
Pet Partners membership is $95.00 for two years for independent members, $50.00 for members of a Community Partner, such as Therapy Animals of Utah. Therapy Animals of Utah annual membership is $35.00. Membership fees for both organizations are reduced for renewing teams, minors, seniors, members of the military or their dependents, for persons with a disability, and for individuals without an animal.


PawHow much time must I commit to be involved?

You can commit to whatever amount of time you would like to volunteer, according to your schedule. Initially, there is an eight hour Pet Partners® Handler Training Course to attend (see the ‘Events’ box on homepage for upcoming dates). After attending the course, sign-up for the Team Evaluation (takes 30-45 minutes). The team is allowed as many attempts as they wish to pass the evaluation.
Successful completion of the Team Evaluation is required before being able to volunteer at one of TAU’s site-assessed facilities. After that, teams may volunteer for an hour at a day as often as several times a week, as little as once a month, or for special events only, as their individual time permits.


PawDo I have to have an animal to be involved?

You do NOT have to have an animal to get involved with Animal-Assisted Therapy. We welcome members who would like to be co-handlers or Pet Partner Pals to accompany a Pet Partner Team, or those who would like to become involved with TAU and support our mission. At special events, we need a volunteer facilitator without an animal to help everything go smoothly. As a volunteer organization, TAU can always use additional help at the facilities, as well as with administrative tasks!


PawHow do I know if my pet is suitable for Animal-Assisted Therapy?

You could be living with a future Therapy Animal if the following statements are true:

  • Your pet is even tempered, well behaved and under control. S/he is reliable and tolerant .
  • Your pet enjoys interacting with and being touched by people.
  • Your pet is non-aggressive toward people and other animals.
  • Your pet has lived with you for at least six months (birds – one year) at the time of testing.
  • Your pet is at least one year old and current on its rabies vaccination at the time of testing.
  • You are able to bathe or have your pet bathed before visits.
  • Your pet lives mainly indoors.
  • Your pet will be able to follow basic obedience commands – ‘Heel’, ‘Sit’, ‘Down’, ‘Stay’, ‘Come’ and ‘Leave it’. (different for animals other than dogs)

The first three personality attributes are important for your animal to enjoy participating in therapy work.  Training is important too, but it is on-going.  Don’t hesitate to take the Pet Partners Beginning Handlers Training Course while your animal is still young.  It’s easier to train for your goal if you know where you’re going! The trainers listed on our Partners and Friends page have classes specifically to help you train your animal for therapy work. For more details about your pet’s suitability, please email TAU at or call (801) 706-1389. Or see the Pet Partners website:


PawWhat's my first step?

If you think your animal is suitable for therapy work, the first step is to register for a Pet Partners Beginning Handlers Training Course. To do this, just complete the online registration form and mail it to TAU. See the events box  for the next class and a downloadable registration form.


PawWhat are Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA)?

Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) are the casual meet-and-greet activities that involve pets visiting people. They are spontaneous and unplanned, not goal directed, and delivered by a professional, a para-professional or a trained volunteer and a registered therapy animal. Documentation is not required, but the benefits for those visited can include increased rapport, outward focus, and socialization.
People visited by a therapy animal team experience acceptance, empathy, mental stimulation, entertainment, and often a spiritual connection that may otherwise be lacking in their environment. They benefit from the physical contact and physiological effects of being with an animal, including decreased blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and decreased stress hormone levels. They have an opportunity to express nurturing and care for another creature that they may not have had otherwise.


PawWhat is Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT)?

Animal-assisted therapy (AAT) is a goal-directed intervention directed and/or delivered by a health or human service professional with specialized expertise and within the scope of his/her profession. It is goal directed, and designed specifically to meet the needs of particular clients in order to promote their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning. Like any professional therapy, it must be carefully documented. However, just as in animal-assisted activities, the benefits for those involved can include increased rapport, outward focus, and socialization.

People participating in animal-assisted therapy can experience acceptance, empathy, mental stimulation, entertainment, and often a spiritual connection that may otherwise be lacking in their environment. They benefit from the physical contact and physiological effects of being with an animal, including decreased blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and stress hormone levels. They have an opportunity to express nurturing and care for another creature that they may not have had in their present situation.


PawWhy Join Therapy Animals of Utah?

Since 1997 Therapy Animals of Utah has been focused on excellence in volunteer training and support, outstanding professional-quality service in facilities, and a commitment to public education, especially for the professionals who partner with our teams in the field.

Two of our Pet Partners licensed Instructors have actively pursued continuing education, including completing the year long Animals and Human Health Certificate program of the University of Denver and attending national conferences on animal-assisted therapy.

Our four Pet Partner licensed Team Evaluators are actively engaged in monthly team evaluations and continually discussing how to maintain the high standards and consistency of the Pet Partner evaluation procedures.

Our members benefit from this focus and expertise. Experienced staff and volunteers assess every facility we visit, teaching the staff about the needs of our teams and how to optimize the benefits of animal-assisted therapy in their practice. New teams shadow experienced teams when they begin visiting a facility. There is a talented, dedicated group of mentors to assist novice teams as they work to integrate the complex combination of skills required for visiting. When problems come up, we have educated, experienced members willing and able to help. Annually we have volunteer appreciation events, animals included. We share a love of animals, an understanding of their gifts of comfort and healing, and a dedication to volunteer service. Because of our small size and family-like atmosphere, you’re practically guaranteed a support system of like-minded people. Pet Partners provides our national standards, expertise, and insurance.  Therapy Animals of Utah provides our local support.  Download a membership application here.


PawWhat is the Difference Between a Therapy Animal and a Service Animal?

A Therapy Animal is an animal that meets certain criteria, is tested and insured, and visits people with its owner/handler in a variety of settings to provide health, social-emotional, and educational benefits.  It is focused on other people, supported by its handler, and does not have the legal right to full public access.

An Emotional Support Animal is an animal who provides health and social-emotional benefits to its owner, is prescribed for that owner by a mental health professional, and is protected by the Fair Housing Act to be allowed in rental housing, even when pets are not typically allowed.  It is focused on its owner and does not have the legal right to full public access.   For everyone’s benefit, it is best, though not required, that the animal is well trained and exhibits good manners.

A Service Animal is an animal that is trained to do at least three tasks for a person with a disability that they cannot do for themselves, such as guiding a visually impaired or blind person, alerting a hearing-impaired or deaf person to important sounds, mobility support for a person unable to walk unaided, or alerting for conditions such as seizures, cardiac events, or diabetic emergencies.  These animals and their owners are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and do have the legal right to full public access.

For help with training Service or Emotional Support Animals, please call Skye’s Dog Training at 801- 885-3922 or visit her website at


PawWhat Resources Are Available As I Prepare for Our Team Evaluation?

 Your Pet Partners® Handler Student Guide has information about the Team Evaluation beginning around page 60. Practice, practice, practice! Get your friends and neighbors together to help you and your animal prepare for each particular exercise. You can watch a video of a mock evaluation with explanations when you click here.

Calling All Dogs and Skyes Dog Training both have therapy dog classes available if you feel the need for expert instruction. Other trainers who help you and your dog work toward passing the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test (CGC) can also give you a good foundation for your team evaluation.

Finally, Peter Christensen has a great Therapy Dog Information website with lots of practical tricks and tips to help you as you prepare for your test.

Remember that becoming a therapy animal team with your beloved pet is a journey, and journeys take planning and time, so don’t get discouraged. The work will be more than worth the reward when you and your animal bring your gifts of comfort, love, hope and healing to people who need it so much!



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