If your pet has a friendly temperament in all environments and gets along with other animals, you may have a good candidate for pet therapy work. All pets who volunteer at hospitals, assisted living facilities, psychiatric facilities, libraries or schools are required to meet and maintain the PAWS of CNY Certification requirements. In addition, pets who attend any of our specialty programs are required to meet and maintain the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification requirements.
PLEASE NOTE: The PAWS of CNY Certification provides accreditation for handlers and their dogs to attend PAWS of CNY sanctioned AAA and AAT pet therapy visits only. PAWS of CNY does not certify emotional support dogs, guide dogs, and other service dogs.
Before beginning the certification process, you must submit an application to PAWS of CNY.
After reviewing the initial paper application, which must include the necessary veterinary paperwork, PAWS of CNY will contact the prospective volunteer to set up an initial evaluation.
At the initial evaluation, the following will be assessed:
• Basic Obedience (for canines)
• Volunteer’s Handling Skills
New Volunteer Orientation
Upon passing the initial evaluation, all new volunteers must attend a one hour orientation meeting. This is an orientation session for our human volunteers only to review the program policies and guidelines. At the end of the orientation, each volunteer and their pet will be assigned to a facility for the next part of the certification process.
The evaluation process will continue with three supervised visits in the assigned facility. Most facilities are scheduled for monthly visits, thus, the facility observation portion of the evaluation is completed over the course of three consecutive months.
First Visit: Handler attends without his/her pet. The purpose of the initial visit is for the handler to observe the visit, meet the group leader and the other volunteers, and become acquainted with the facility, their staff and residents without his/her pet.
Second and Third Visit: Handler attends with his/her pet. The pet must demonstrate proper behavior during the visit and the handler must demonstrate proper handling of his/her pet. The group leader will observe the potential volunteers at this time. After the third visit, if the Group Leader has assessed that the team has met all of the necessary requirements, the volunteers will complete their PAWS of CNY Therapy Pet Certification and can continue to visit at that facility on a routine monthly basis. The Group Leader will report to the Board of Directors that the team has passed the certification process and the team will be mailed an official certificate and bandana. The pet must wear the bandana at every visit moving forward as proof of certification. If you are interested in ordering a PAWS of CNY vest for your dog to wear, instead of the bandana, click here to learn how to order a vest.
Maintaining Your Certification
Teams are re-assessed every two years to ensure consistent demonstration of the necessary behavior and temperament requirements to be a PAWS of CNY volunteer. It is the handler’s responsibility to contact PAWS of CNY to schedule the re-certification evaluation. The bi-annual evaluation includes the same testing criteria as the initial evaluation.
PAWS of CNY volunteers are asked to visit at least one facility per month with their pet. Visits typically last 45 – 60 minutes. We appreciate and encourage those volunteers interested in volunteering at multiple facilities each month, but require that the frequency of visits not exceed twice per week. This helps to ensure that our pet volunteers do not become overwhelmed. In addition to monthly facility visits, our volunteers have many opportunities throughout the year to volunteer with or without their pets at various community events that PAWS attends.
As a non-profit volunteer organization, PAWS of CNY is financially dependent upon fundraising, community donations, and Certification Fees in order to accommodate our limited operating expenses.
Each team that passes the certification process will be charged a one-time certification fee of $40 which will be due at or before the initial member orientation session.
This one-time $40 fee covers costs associated with a volunteer’s application and orientation process (including mailings, room rental fees for certification testing, mandatory pet bandanas, etc.) as well as costs associated with on-going membership costs.
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If a pet has not visited any facility in six months or more, that pet, along with the handler, must complete the entire certification process (from application through testing). If a re-certification is required due to a six-month lapse, an additional $40 fee for each pet will be required to accommodate the expenses associated with the complete re-certification. Otherwise, a re-certification fee will not be assessed for the re-certifications that are due every other year for pets in good standing.
If your pet is not able to pass the initial or facility evaluation, or if you feel that your pet could benefit from additional training, Click here to learn about our PAWS of CNY Training Classes