Since 2000, the ASPCA has been the East Coast Affiliate of Pet Partners (formerly known as Delta Society), a national organization that aims to improve human health through the assistance of therapy animals. In the NYC area, the ASPCA helps to carry out the Pet Partners mission by providing a full-service program to the public in which individuals can register their dogs and cats as therapy animals who visit hospitals, nursing homes, classrooms, libraries and other facilities.
Therapy animals are owned pets that volunteer their comfort and emotional support in a variety of human service facilities. Only the most social animals and people are registered with Pet Partners - evaluations measure both the team’s readiness for the work (skill) and their enthusiasm for it (aptitude).
Please note that therapy animals are not legally defined as "service" or "assistance" animals. Service animals are working dogs trained to perform specific tasks relating to their owner’s disability. The ASPCA Animal Assisted Therapy Programs provides guidance for therapy animal applicants. If you require a service animal, please contact Assistance Dogs International: www.assistancedogsinternational.org
How do I register a therapy animal through the ASPCA?
The ASPCA works with Pet Partners (www.petpartners.org) to register therapy animals in the NYC area.
1. Make sure you and your pet meet the minimum requirements:
- Dogs and cats must have lived with their handler for at least six months.
- Dogs and cats must be at least 1 year old.
- Dogs and cats should show no aggression towards people or other animals (no growling, barking, lunging, attempting to bite, or bite history).
- Dogs should know basic obedience cues and be able to sit, down, stay, heel, leave it, and come when called before taking the evaluation.
- Dogs and cats that are fed a raw protein diet are not able to participate in Pet Partners programs.
- Both the animal and their handler should be very social and enjoy interactions with people.
- The person handling the animal must be at least 10 years old. Handlers younger than 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian during the Pet Partners evaluation, and must have written permission to participate from a parent or guardian.
- Handlers and their animals have unique "team" registrations that are not transferrable to other handlers. Additional handlers may register with the same animal, but each person will need to evaluate with that animal.
2. Complete handler training without your animal. You can do this online (www.petpartners.org), or through a one-day seminar offered at the ASPCA.
3. Complete an evaluation with your animal. Evaluations are offered through the ASPCA by-appointment only. Dog owners are most successful in evaluations if they've completed positive reinforcement training classes.
4. Submit your completed registration packet to Pet Partners. This packet includes your volunteer agreement, veterinary screening forms, evaluation forms, registration fees, handler training certificate of completion, and a photo. After mailing this packet to Pet Partners, registration processing time averages 2-3 weeks.
Upcoming Classes, Workshops, and Pet Partner Evaluations
All classes, evaluations, and workshops are currently postponed due to building renovations. We will resume a normal schedule in the summer of 2013. Please contact us at AAT.firstname.lastname@example.org to be placed on our interest list.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can therapy animals go "everywhere" with their handlers?
Therapy animals are not legally entitled to enter public places such as businesses, restaurants, public transportation, or housing with "no pets" clauses. For more information, please see the Americans with Disabilities Act factsheet: www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm
How do I become registered with Pet Partners if I live outside of the NYC area?
The "Courses & Evaluations" section of the Pet Partners website provides information about registration in other regions.
Is my animal appropriate for animal assisted therapy (AAT)?
- Does your animal enjoy interacting with and being touched by people?
- Is your animal confident in new environments?
- Is your animal calm around other animals?
- Have you known your animal for at least six (6) months?
- Is your animal at least one (1) year old?
If you answered "yes" to all of these questions, your animal shows potential for animal assisted therapy work. Your next step is to complete Therapy Handler training without your animal, www.petpartners.org
Is my dog ready for an evaluation?
- Is your dog vaccinated for Rabies, Bordatella, and Distemper?
- Does your dog reliably respond to basic obedience cues ("sit", "down", and "stay")?
- Is your dog polite around all other dogs (does not rush at, jump on, bark at, growl at, snap at, or lunge towards dogs)?
- Is your dog polite around people (does not jump up onto people and does not bite, nip, or mouth people)?
If you answered "yes" to all of these questions and all of the questions from "Is my animal appropriate for AAT?" your dog may be ready for an animal-assisted therapy evaluation.
ASPCA Animal Assisted Therapy Programs
(212) 876-7700 ext. 4426