1. How can my dog/cat become a therapy pet?
All therapy pets must provide a health screening from their vet that includes the general health of your pet, negative fecal parasite test results and proof of current rabies vaccination, the form is available on our application Once completed, you can fill out an application online. If your dog passes the initial testing, you will be contacted to set up the second portion of your certification; the facility evaluation. You can find the criteria for both cats and dogs here.
2. Will PAWS of CNY supply me with a therapy pet for visits?
No, all of our volunteers visit with their own pets; we do not supply therapy pets to volunteers. If you wish to volunteer, you must own a dog or cat that is at least one-year-old and has been in your family for at least six months. In addition, you must apply and your pet must pass the certification process.
3. Can I volunteer without a pet?
Absolutely! We are always looking for eager volunteers to support our administrative, fundraising, and event coordination efforts. Please follow the link provided to submit a human-only application.
4. Where can I get a therapy dog?
Therapy dogs work with their handler to bring stress relief and comfort to those around them. Since the dogs that visit through our program are owned by their handlers, your options to potentially own a therapy dog are endless. Shelters often have a large variety of dog breeds looking for their forever homes. Finding an older dog that enjoys the company of people and other dogs is a great place to start. This coupled with some time and training will have you well on your way to creating a therapy team.
If you are looking for a pet to give you comfort or service as an individual, please refer to questions 6 through 8.
5. Do I have to take a special class to be evaluated?
No, classes are not mandatory for evaluation. However, there are a good choice for owners who think their dog may need practice with the skills such as basic obedience that will be tested during the evaluation. We have several community partners that are local trainers that we can recommend here.
6. What is the difference between a therapy dog and an emotional support dog?
A therapy pet is trained and certified to provide other people with comfort and stress relief. These dogs/cats visit at sanctioned events set up by the organization in public and private places that may or may not generally allow pets. The therapy dog/cat designation allows access to PAWS events only and does not give the handler access otherwise.
An emotional support dog, on the other hand, provides emotional support to those individual owners to improve their wellbeing. These pets are medically prescribed and granted special access to pet-restricted housing as well as airplanes (unlike therapy pets). To read more about these differences, please click the here.
7. What is the difference between a therapy dog and a service dog?
A service dog is one that has gone through special selection and training to assist someone with a disability. An example of this would be a Seeing Eye dog. These dogs assist their owners in day-to-day activities that they may not be able to do on their own. Typically, since these are working dogs you should not approach or pet them while they are on task. If you are unsure, you should always ask their owner/handler.
In comparison, certified therapy dogs are there to comfort others, to be pet, read to, watched and appreciated; they do not go through such extensive training and are not slated to assist individuals with disabilities. Therapy dogs live to be pet! To read more about these differences, please click the here.
8. I am in need of a service dog or emotional support dog – does your organization know where I can get assistance?
We’re sorry we can’t be of more help! Please refer to the following links:
Service Area – Community Partners
1. What geographic area does PAWS of CNY serve?
PAWS of CNY serves Onondaga, Oswego, Cortland, Madison, and Cayuga Counties.
2. Where do you visit?
Our certified pets and volunteer handlers are currently visiting Syracuse Hancock International Airport, 5 hospitals, 45+ skilled nursing facilities, 1 drug court, 2 residential treatment programs for children, 35+ elementary schools/libraries, and a wide variety of community events within our service area.
3. How can I schedule a one-time event for my organization?
If you are interested in having PAWS of CNY bring therapy pets to your organization and are located within our service area, please click the following link to fill out an event request form.
4. How can I arrange ongoing visits to my skilled nursing facility, school, or hospital?
To arrange an ongoing visit to your skilled nursing facility, please click the following link. If you are interested in PAWS of CNY bringing therapy pets to your school, please fill out our reading program application. Hospital inquiries should be e-mailed to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. What type of community events do you attend?
We are pleased to attend events in our service area such as:
- Wellness Fairs (community based or corporate)
- Non-profit educational events
- Animal welfare events
- School/College events
- De-stress events
- Literacy fairs
- Boy or Girl Scout troop meetings
- Other extra-curricular events
6. Are there pet therapy programs at other airports?
There are approximately 50 airports across the country that have pet programs to help assist stressed out travelers and their families.
7. How can I visit in the SYR PET Program at Syracuse Hancock International Airport?
Our certified pets visit the airport weekly to support passengers and military personnel. If you’d like to volunteer your therapy pet to visit the airport, please see the link here. These pets must be certified by PAWS of CNY and have at least 18 months of experience in our various programs.
8. How long are therapy dog visits?
The answer to this common question varies by program:
- Nursing homes: From 30 to 60 minutes
- Syracuse airport: About 2 hours
- Hospitals: From 30 minutes to 2 hours
- Reading programs: From 30 to 60 minutes
- Community events: Up to 90 minutes
9. Can I pet a therapy dog?
Of course! Unlike service dogs, therapy dogs are provided to create comfort and stress relief to those around them and are specially trained for these situations. Feel free to read our blog for more information.