Volunteering With or Without Your Animal

How to Start?

If you feel that you and your pet may be interested in becoming a volunteer visiting team with Huntsville Pets Helping People, the first step is for you to thoroughly read the following information about the requirements and process to qualify for this very unique kind of volunteering.  Once you have read and considered this information, make a list of your questions and contact us to set up a personal interview.  We would like to meet you and your pet to discuss the training and time commitments, answer all your questions about the process, and help you determine whether this is the kind of volunteer that you and your animal will enjoy before you invest time and money to become trained and registered therapy animal team.

An interview is required before you may register for a workshop and team screening/evaluation.  The interview is by appointment only and will take about half an hour.  The workshops and screenings are offered only a limited number of times each year, generally quarterly .  Please consider the schedule for your area and call to schedule your appointment.

The Woodlands               Wendy Hoffer                    281 727-6696

Huntsville                         Diane Carpenter                 936 291-7387 or 291-8029

If you are accepted into the program, you will be invited to register for the basic training workshop (only for humans) and to be followed by a handler-animal team evaluation.


Schedule and Costs

Participating in animal-assisted therapy with your partner animal is a volunteer service with great potential satisfaction and reward, but it is not a casual undertaking and is not suitable for everyone.  It is a serious responsibility that involves health, safety, and extremes of emotion and behavior.  Volunteers need to be able to deal appropriately with patients/clients during the most difficult and challenging times in their lives.  As such, it requires an initial investment and then ongoing education, training, and commitment.

The Basic Workshop costs $75.

Team Screening/Evaluation for you and your animal partner, costs $25.

Joining HPHP, including team liability insurance, costs $75.

Note: If you will be affiliated with Montgomery Pet Partners, you will be required to join MPP instead of HPHP.


The Basic Team Training Workshop will provide important information such as:

  • How you and your animal companion can test and register as a volunteer team
  • The difference between animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and animal-assisted activities (AAA) and how to conduct both of them
  • How to recognize the signs of stress in you animal companion partner
  • What to bring with you on visits
  • How to prepare your animal partner for a AAA/AAT visit
  • The appropriate terminology and conversational approaches for various clients
  • How to identify situations where animal visits are not appropriate
  • Common concerns of health care and human services professionals about AAA/AAT and how to address them
  • How to get started in various kinds of facilities


Team Screening /Evaluation for Your and Your Animal – Screening of person-handler teams is accomplished by a licensed ITA (Intermountain Therapy Animal) Team Evaluator.  An individual appointments will be scheduled for you and your animal as a team.  The screening will evaluate your team skills and your aptitude for a visiting animal program.


What Makes a Person and Animal Suitable to be a Volunteer Therapy Team?

Important:  (1) Please note that your dog must be at least 18 months old to qualify for screening.  Cats must be at least 12 months old.  Pocket pets like guinea pigs must be six months old.  (2) You must have known the animal for a minimum of six months before you can evaluate to be a Volunteer Therapy Team.

We look for very specific qualities in the people and their companion animals who will qualify as volunteer therapy teams.  Pet Owners who are considering this kind of service should read the following with great care and consideration because, while this manner of volunteering can be extremely valuable and rewarding, it is not enjoyable or appropriate for every person or every pet.


What Qualities Does a Person Have to Demonstrate to Be Part of a Successful Team?

      Providing animal assisted therapy is a human health and social service.  It is not a sport or competition, and being a therapy dog animal is not a title to accrue.  As such, your role in the process is extremely important.  It is not a simple, casual, or stress-free kind of volunteering; many liken it to a para-profession, and you will often be “alone” (meaning no group of HPHP colleagues together, all doing similar things at the same time) with patients or residents.  You will need to be brave, steady, direct, confident, emotionally mature, and flexible, among other qualities.

  • We look for people who demonstrate good social skills, who can smile and relax and relate comfortably with their animal partner and with other people. And you need to be at least 12 years old.