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By this time, you probably have browsed our entire website and have a pretty good idea what Therapaws of Michigan, Inc. (Therapaws) is all about. If you haven't, we encourage you to go back over all the pages and links so you become totally familiar with canine-assisted therapy and what it involves.

If you seriously believe this is a volunteer commitment you wish to make with your dog then we are pleased to invite you to begin the process of becoming a canine-assisted therapy volunteer.


Canine-Assisted Therapy Volunteer Requirements

  1. Contact an Alliance of Therapy Dogs Tester/Observer

  2. Join Therapaws of Michigan, Inc.

  3. Register with Therapaws of Michigan

  4. Obtain Your Facility Assignment


STEP 1 - Contact an Alliance of Therapy Dogs Tester/Observer

The very first thing you are required to do before becoming a canine-assisted therapy volunteer is to register with an umbrella organization called Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD), a national registry that provides aggregate liability insurance for handler/dog teams.

To become registered with ATD, there is a test and three observations, conducted by Alliance of Therapy Dogs-approved Testers/Observers (T/Os), that you and your dog are expected to pass.

Follow these instruction to become registered with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs:

  1. Go to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs website.
  2. Find and click on the link (or click here): "Find a Tester/Observer".
  3. Call the tester/observer to schedule an appointment to test your dog. You will be tested within a 3 month period. If the T/O you contact is not able to test your dog, please call the Alliance of Therapy Dogs to let them know. Read the entire Alliance of Therapy Dogs website to understand the process before you call.
  4. The process includes the test and two observations. The last two observations are done in a medical facility. All three parts of the process must be completed, all on different days.
  5. When you have completed the process, and you have passed both the test and the observations, you will send your testing, application, release of claims, evaluation of tester and your membership fee materials into Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

When you receive your official packet from Alliance of Therapy Dogs, you and your dog will be an official registered therapy dog team.

  • Your dog will get a red heart tag that must be worn during visits.
  • You will receive a membership card that you will carry with you on visits. This is your insurance as well as your identification card for your team.
  • As an Alliance of Therapy Dogs member, you can be an independent pet therapy team and make your own arrangements with any facility of your choice anywhere in the country. There are usually guidelines at such facilities that you and your dog will be expected to follow.
  • You will have to renew your membership with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs each year, along with the annual fee of $30.

In addition to your Alliance of Therapy Dogs membership, you also may choose to become a member of Therapaws of Michigan, our local canine-assisted therapy program, currently serving Ann Arbor and surrounding communities. Many registrants choose to add Therapaws membership because of the reputation we have with local facilities who come to us when they need suitable pet therapy teams.

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STEP 2 - Join Therapaws of Michigan, Inc.

By choice, you are now able to register with our local therapy dog organization, Therapaws of Michigan, Inc.

If you are interested in joining Therapaws of Michigan, please complete the Therapaws application below.

  • Make sure you fill in every blank and answer every question.
  • On receiving your application, a member of Therapaws will contact you either by phone or email to explain the process further and answer any questions that you may have.

Please answer all questions on this online form and click on Submit to send to us. All fields are required. EVERY LINE MUST HAVE AN ANSWER. "X" IS FINE IF YOU FEEL IT DOES NOT APPLY.

Contact Information: Part 1 of 4

Please fill in all the information completely before going on to Part 2:


OPTION ONE: I am interested in being a member of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs only.
OPTION TWO: I am interested in being a member of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs AND Therapaws.

Self Evaluation: Part 2 of 4

The following YES or NO questions are designed to help you and us evaluate whether or not you and your dog would make a suitable canine-assisted therapy team.

  1. Are you 18 years of age or older?
  2. Is your dog one year of age or older?
  3. Do you own the dog that you want us to consider?
  4. All qualified teams are encouraged to commit to regularly assigned visits for a period of at least two years. Are you able to make this time commitment?
  5. Therapaws teams (owner and dog) make regularly scheduled visits to hospitals and extended care facilities in Ann Arbor and surrounding communities. Are you able to make regularly scheduled visits within our service area?
  6. Therapaws teams generally travel by car to their placement. Do you have reliable transportation to make regularly scheduled visits?
  7. Most facilities require staff to be on site during our visits. Therefore, most of our team visits are scheduled during weekdays. Evening and weekend assignments are rare. Are you available to volunteer for assignments Mondays through Fridays between 9 A.M. and 5 P.M.?
  8. Therapy dogs must be current on all required vaccinations, based on the veterinarian's recommendation, and must have an annual veterinary physical examination and fecal test. Can you meet this requirement?
  9. Therapy dogs must have some level of obedience training and must meet certain temperament standards. These include being able to walk on leash without pulling, following basic commands, willing to be touched by strangers, responding calmly to people calling name, tolerating sudden noises such as voices, approaching wheelchairs, walkers, canes, etc. Can your dog meet these requirements?
  10. During visits, therapy dogs may meet children and adults who could suddenly grab, poke, or pull on them. Would your dog react to such behavior with aggression or submissive piddling?
  11. Occasionally therapy dogs may see or meet other dogs or animals during a visit. Does your dog show signs of aggression toward other animals or people?
  12. Therapy dogs are expected to show up for a visit with a clean, brushed, odorless coat, clean teeth, clear eyes, and trimmed nails. Dogs must be free of external parasites and any insecticide treatment must be administered not less than three days in advance of a visit. Can you meet these requirements?
  13. Dog owners must be neat, well groomed, sociable, and willing to follow and respect the facility's standards, rules, and procedures. Can you meet these requirements?
  14. Do you consider yourself compassionate, friendly, dependable, and one who maintains good judgment when interacting with others, like extending empathy but not sympathy?
  15. In your dealings with patients or residents, can you be a good listener while maintaining strict confidentiality?
  16. Your overall health is important. Do you have any conditions that would prevent you from making and completing regularly scheduled visits?
  17. Are you comfortable interacting with sick children or adults who may be very ill, suffering from dementia, etc.?
  18. Members who take their dogs to work with them and/or use them in their jobs such as, but not limited to, teachers, therapists, doctors, or psychologists, are NOT covered by the Alliance of Therapy Dogs aggregate liability insurance when functioning as employees. Do you agree to the rule that you will conduct your therapy visits only as a volunteer and not in a paid position?

If you feel you and your dog will make a good canine-assisted therapy team after answering the questions above, please go on to Part 3.

Information About You: Part 3 of 4

Pet visitation experience

Previous experience(s) with pet visitation?

Facility visitation experience

Have you visited residents or patients who were strangers to you in a hospital, assisted-living facility, group home, rehabilitation or psychiatric center?

What type of facility would you prefer to visit and, in your opinion,

Information About Your Dog: Part 4 of 4

Car rides

Does your dog ride well in car?

Agression or irritability

Has your dog ever shown signs of aggression or irritability?


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STEP 3 - Register with Therapaws of Michigan

Please send the following items to the address below:

Therapaws of Michigan, Inc.
PO Box 92
Dexter, MI 48130
  1. A signed copy of our Hold-Harmless Agreement (595 KB PDF file).
  2. A copy of your Alliance of Therapy Dogs active member card showing both sides of the card. Make certain it says the current year on the card. This process takes place annually with your updated card sent to us.
  3. $25 one-time application fee, checks made out to Therapaws of Michigan.

After we receive your registration materials, you will receive a Therapaws New Member packet by mail. This packet will provide you with all of the tools and rules associated with Therapaws.

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STEP 4 - Obtain Your Facility Assignment

Once we receive all your paperwork, email info(at)therapaws.org for an assignment.

Please understand that Therapaws will make every effort to place you at a facility of your preference, but assignments are made where the need is greatest. If you wish to volunteer at one of the hospitals, you also will be required to go through their individual volunteer orientations before you can make hospital visits.

If you are interested in only visiting University of Michigan Heath System, we will need to pre-screen you for their registration process.

If you are interested in another hospital or non-hospital setting, we will discuss with you the best options for you and your therapy dog, trying to match your placement request.

Each facility and its patients has its own special charm. Sometimes a number of visits occur before you feel a magical connection and we ask for your patience during this process. However, no assignment is permanent and our ultimate goal is to find the happiest fit for both you and your dog.

You will be added to our email list of "special events" in and around Washtenaw County (school, college, community visits and more).

Twice a year, Therapaws has a special way of thanking you for your service with two rewarding activities: our summer picnic with the dogs and our annual holiday gathering without dogs.

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Additional Volunteer Opportunities

Therapaws to READ Program

If you are interested in the Therapaws to READ program, you first must be registered with Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD) and with Therapaws of Michigan, Inc. (Therapaws).

We encourage you to do therapy work with your dog first before you commit to additional work in the Therapaws to READ program.

We serve several school districts and a few libraries. It has been a very successful program that works best if you and your dog love to spend individual time with a child reading to you.

These hour-long sessions are broken down into each child reading for ten minutes. A calm, relaxed dog is essential to the success of the experience as their temperament is a key ingredient. Any aged dog can participate as long as they comply.


Other Time & Talent Services Needed

Print out this Time & Talent form (570 KB PDF file), circle the areas you wish to become involved with - in addition to your regular therapy dog visits - fill in the information, and mail to:

Therapaws of Michigan, Inc.
PO Box 92
Dexter, MI 48130

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