Steps to Become A Therapaws Team

Step 1 Requirements
Step 2 Complete ATD Testing
Step 3 Join Therapaws
Step 4 Orientation & Start Visiting!
On-going Step Annual Member Renewal Process

 Step 1 – Requirements

Decide to Become Registered with Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD)

Here is a list of requirements for Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD) and Therapaws membership to help you consider if becoming a volunteer Therapy Dog Team is right for you and your dog.

If you can say yes to all of these requirements, we welcome you to join Therapaws as soon you become an ATD member.

Participating in Therapaws is fun and fulfilling, but it’s a decision that requires a commitment. In other words, it’s more than simply having the title “therapy dog”.

Requirements for You

  • Must be 18 years or older. A person can be ages 12 -17 for junior handler status.
  • Must become an Alliance of Therapy Dogs member by completing a background check and passing three test/observation sessions with your dog with an ATD tester/observer. Two of the three observations will be at a medical facility such as long-term care or assisted living.
  • Can commit to a regular assignment or participate for at least two years.
  • Have reliable transportation for you and your dog.
  • Follow the rules and regulations of the facility/facilities you visit.
  • Be sociable, well groomed, a good listener, and able to show compassion/empathy. You also must display good judgment and maintain confidentiality.
  • In some cases, you must be comfortable when encountering ill or confused children and adults.
  • Must not misrepresent your therapy dog as a service dog, including wearing a service dog vest. Therapy dogs do not have legal access rights like service dogs. Therapy dogs must be invited to visit at any facility.

Requirements for Your Dog

  • Must be at least one year old, have a current rabies vaccination, a yearly exam by a veterinarian and negative fecal test.
  • No history of biting a person, or showing aggression or uncontrolled excitement toward dogs or animals they may encounter.
  • Must be well-groomed including a clean, brushed, odorless coat, clean teeth and short, smooth nails.
  • Does not have to be spayed or neutered. A pregnant dog must take maternity leave one month before whelping and two months after whelping. Females in season may not visit.
  • Must display obedience and pass a temperament test that includes: walking on a leash without pulling, willing to be touched by strangers, able to stay calm when sudden noises and motion occur (for example, experiencing loud voices as well as patients or equipment going past in wheelchairs, walkers, and canes.) Formal obedience classes are not required.
  • Must be tolerant if a child or adult suddenly grabs, pokes, or pulls on the dog.
  • Must wear the ATD “I am a Therapy Dog” red heart tag when visiting, but not at other times.


If you have questions or concerns regarding these requirements, we will be happy to discuss our program as well as the ATD testing process with you before you proceed.

Contact Us With Questions

Step 2 – Complete ATD Testing

Find an ATD Tester and Complete ATD Testing

  1. Select and contact an ATD tester. Testers are required to do the test within three months of being contacted. If the tester is not currently available, call another tester. Find a copy of the test and other information on the ATD website and read this over carefully.
  2. You will need to sign up for your initial test and three observations of you and your dog making visits with an ATD tester/observer. There are three testing sessions and two of them are in medical settings. Therapaws, as an organization, does not test teams or provide insurance. Therapaws helps with your placements after you become an ATD registered therapy dog team.
  3. Complete three sessions and send in all required paperwork with your signed test to ATD. Your tester will go over what needs to be sent to ATD and what will be sent to you in your ATD new member packet.
  4. When your ATD membership packet arrives with your membership card you are officially an ATD Therapy Dog Team. Not only can you choose to join our local Therapaws organization and start visiting, your ATD membership allows you to make visiting arrangements independently anywhere in the United States, in case you relocate or head to warmer climes in the winter.

Step 3 – Join Therapaws

Join Therapaws Once You Are an ATD Member

Remember the requirements to join Therapaws you read in Step 1: Requirements – Decide to Become Registered with ATD.

If you can still say yes to all of those requirements we welcome you to become a Therapaws member by following our 3-part registration process.

Registration Process:

  1. Complete the Member Registration Form
  2. Send Three Items to Therapaws
  3. Review Orientation PowerPoint

Part 1 – Complete the Member Registration Form

* ALL FIELDS ARE REQUIRED. Be sure to not to leave anything blank – choose yes or no, enter your answer or use an X if not applicable.

    Commitment Statement

    I have read, understand and will comply with the requirements listed above as a Therapaws member. * YesNo

    Contact Information

    ATD Testing Information

    Information About You

    Visitation Experience
    1. YesNo
    1. YesNo

    Visitation Preferences
    1. DayEvening

    Information About Your Therapy Dog
    1. YesNo
    2. YesNo

    Part 2 – Send Three Items to Therapaws

    Item #1 – A copy of both sides of your ATD card

    You have 2 ways to send in your ATD membership card:

    • Option 1 – Copy both sides and mail to:
      • Therapaws of Michigan Inc.
        P.O. Box 92
        Dexter, Michigan 48130
    • Option 2 – Scan or download your ATD card from the ATD portal and email it to:
      • Dave Wilson, membership chairman, at: wilsondg52@gmail.com

    Item #2 – Therapaws Hold-Harmless Agreement

    • Navigate to “Member Resources” at the bottom of this website and download the “Therapaws Hold-Harmless Agreement”.
    • Print, sign, and mail it to Therapaws:
      • Therapaws of Michigan Inc.
        P.O. Box 92
        Dexter, Michigan 48130

    Item #3 – A One-Time $25 Membership Fee

    • Mail a check or money order for your one-time $25 membership fee to:
      • Therapaws of Michigan Inc.
        P.O. Box 92
        Dexter, Michigan 48130
    • By sending in your annual ATD renewed membership card on time, you will not need to pay another membership fee for Therapaws. If your membership expires, you must pay $25 to rejoin Therapaws.

    When we receive the three items above, we will send you a New Member Therapaws Packet by mail. This packet will welcome you with tools and rules associated with Therapaws.

    Part 3 – Review Orientation PowerPoint

    Review the Orientation PowerPoint to learn more about being a Therapaws team, discuss placement opportunities and be able to ask questions.

    Step 4 – Orientation & Start Visiting!

    Welcome to Therapaws – You are ready to visit!

    Team Requirement

    We are dedicated to helping you find placements that are a good fit for you and your dog. You will be assisted by the Therapaws placement coordinator.

    • In addition, we have several placement coordinators at each of our hospitals.
    • Another member coordinates non-hospital placements.
    • Another member coordinates special events that are requested by the community and sends out email notices via SignUpGenius so you can choose when you are available to participate in a variety of events.

    As a new pet therapy team, you will experience a process of discovering where you prefer to visit. With experience, you will determine how often and where the best fit is for you and your dog.

    Contact Us to Inquire About Available Placements

    Location-Specific Volunteer Requirements

    Some locations require that you become a volunteer with their facility. You will work with the Therapaws coordinator at that location and the volunteer staff of the facility to meet the sign-up requirements, paperwork, health information and complete their orientation program.

    You will need to know the procedure for letting them know if you cannot make a scheduled visit and/or if you need a sub.

    Team Workshops

    We offer two workshops a year that provide great continuing education and techniques that are helpful for pet therapy visits. This is also a chance to meet other teams.

    Member Resources

    We encourage you to read through our Member Resources documents, including the Therapaws Policies and Procedures and Therapaws Bylaws, as well as your ATD handbook.

    Annual Member Renewal Process

    Membership Renewal is a Two-part Process

    1. ATD membership must be renewed first, before your Therapaws membership can be renewed.
    2. Therapaws members must renew their membership yearly, in conjunction with and before the expiration of their annual ATD membership.

    ATD memberships expire on either June 30 or December 31 of each year.

    Your ATD card has your expiration date on it. You will receive an email from ATD 3 months before your renewal is due. This can be done online or in the mail. Due to the large number of renewals to ATD (15,000 national teams) please begin this process early.

    • If your membership expires on June 30, the window for renewal is April 1 – June 30.
    • If your membership expires on December 31, the window is from October 1 – December 31.

    Do not wait until mid June or mid December to send renewal information to ATD. You will want to get your renewed card in plenty of time to get it to Therapaws on time. Therapaws will also send out reminders. This is a shared responsibility by all members to stay current and insured.

    How to Renew Memberships with ATD and Therapaws

    Renewal with ATD

    The following is required to be submitted to ATD for renewal well before the deadline:

    1. Send in or email signed “Health Verification Form” OR proof of negative fecal, current rabies vaccination and exam by a veterinarian within one year previous to the renewal date. For example, if your membership expires 6/30/18 the fecal must have been done after 6/30/17. Getting the yearly fecal done many months before renewal is due is a very good idea and strongly recommended.
    2. Take the ATD annual review on your online portal or print out and mail in.
    3. Send in renewal fee to ATD (address below) or pay with credit card online.

    If mailing your ATD renewal, use this address:
    Alliance of Therapy Dogs
    P.O. Box 20227
    Cheyenne, WY 82003

    You should receive your new ATD membership card within three weeks. If not, contact ATD.

    Renewal with Therapaws

    • Email a copy of your ATD card, or the downloaded version from your ATD portal, to Dave Wilson, Therapaws Membership Chairman:  wilsondg52@gmail.com
    • There is no fee to renew your membership with Therapaws annually. However, renewals after the expiration date will be required to pay $25 to rejoin Therapaws.
    • You will get a confirmation from Dave.

    Therapaws Late Renewal Policy:

    • It is important that all Therapaws members making visits are covered by the insurance policy that ATD provides. Therefore, Therapaws renewals must be in by June 30 or December 31.
    • If Therapaws does not have your renewed ATD card by your expiration date, you will be notified.
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