Pet Partners Program FAQs
What is the Delta Society Pet Partners Program?
The Pet Partners Program is a program of the Delta Society, which prepares pet owner volunteers to provide services to people in their own communities while spending quality time with their pets.
Is a Delta Society Pet Partners team specially trained?
Oregon Coast Therapy Animals (OCTA), as an affiliate of the Delta Society trains and screens volunteers and their pets for participation in visiting animal programs in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and schools. Training for volunteers is provided through hander’s classes taught by Delta licensed instructors. Screening requires a criminal background check, and an evaluation of both members of the team for skills and aptitude by Delta-licensed team evaluators.
What training courses do you provide for the animal?
Pet Partners and OCTA do not provide any training courses for the animals.
How do I know if my animal might be a candidate for this work?
Animals must be at least 1 year old and have lived in the owner's home for at least 6 months. (Pocket pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, etc. only need to be 6 months old) Animals should show no shyness, agression or fear when interacting with people, demonstrate non-threatening or neutral body position; show a tail that is wagging in a friendly manner, or relaxed; have a soft body and relaxed face when people move in very close to hug or pet; not elminate during the evaluation (cats and dogs only); vocalize minimally (a single aggressive bark is unacceptable). There are many good books about signs of stress in dogs available: Canine Body Language by Brenda Aloff, On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas and The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell are all excellent and available on Amazon.
Can my children volunteer with me or do this on their own?
Children as young as 10 years old can become a Therapy Animal Team. They will need to complete the same steps as adult/pet teams. Children 10-15 years of age must have written permission to participate and must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
What is the time/visit commitment required of Therapy Animal Teams
Pet Partners and OCTA do not require Therapy Animal Teams to commit to any number of hours or visits per year. We recognize that every person's availability and interest is different. Therapy Animal Teams need to just work out a schedule that works for both of them and the place(s) they visit. Some teams visit once a month; others twice a week.
Could my animal be a Pet Partner?
Yes if your animal is controllable, reliable, and predictable and comfortable with up close physical contact with strangers. Your animals should also have good manners in public places, be confident in a variety of settings and have the social skills to seek out and visit with strangers. The Pet Partners program is unique in that we look at both ends of the leash. You must also demonstrate that you have the skills and aptitude to work well with your animal and with clients and facilities that you will serve.
What kind of animals can be Pet Partners?
Delta Society registers domesticated animals such as rabbits, goats, horses, miniature pigs, birds, etc. as well as cats and dogs.
Can puppies and kittens become Pet Partners?
No. The Delta Society requires that visiting cats and dogs be at least one year of age.
Can exotic animals or wolf-hybrids be Pet Partners?
The Delta Society does not register ‘wild’ or exotic animals such as snakes, lizards, ferrets, wolf-hybrids, etc. However, Delta Society is constantly expanding the range of species included in the Pet Partners program when their research results indicate that such inclusion is appropriate.
Is any particular breed of dog better than another?
No, many kinds of mixed breed and purebreds can excel at this work. What matters most is the individual animal’s personality – whether the animal likes and seeks out people and is confident visiting strange places.
What are the health screening requirements to participate?
An overall veterinary exam is required to ensure that your animal is in good health to visit. The Delta Society will rely on your veterinarian’s medical judgment and knowledge of the animal’s health history and status. We want to be assured that the animal’s immunity levels are sufficient to participate safely in the Pet Partners Program. Likewise, we need to be sure that Pet Partner’s animals will not endanger the health of the populations we serve. Animals that visit people in hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities need to be healthy, clean, and well mannered so that they pose little risk to patients. The requirements for external parasite control will vary depending on your geographic area. Internal parasite control will have some variation depending on where you live. The Pet Partners Program requires annual fecal tests to check for internal parasites such as hook, whip, tape, and roundworms, etc.
I heard that my animal can NOT be fed a raw protein diet and participate in this program. Is this true?
Yes. Your animal must be off of a raw protein diet for at least 4 weeks. For more information on Pet Partners raw protein diet policy, please go to http://www.petpartners.org/rawdiet .
Does the Pet Partners Program provide volunteer insurance?
When acting as a volunteer for the Delta Society within the scope of your duties as a Pet Partners volunteer, you and your pet are insured by Delta’s commercial general liability insurance. That means that if during a visit either member of a Team causes a loss at a facility with which OCTA has a signed facility agreement, and that loss results in a claim for which Delta is liable, Delta’s commercial general liability insurance will defend and pay expenses of the claim.
Furthermore, Delta’s commercial general liability insurance will be primary, i.e. it will provide coverage first. However, several notable exclusions exist. They are: Delta’s commercial general liability insurance does not provide coverage for either member of a Pet Partners Team causing a loss to other Delta volunteers. Such losses are the personal responsibility of the Pet Partners Handler. Losses caused by Pet Partners Teams are insured only to the extent of the limits of Delta’s commercial general liability insurance. If a Pet Partners Team causes a loss that is in excess of the limits of Delta’s commercial general liability insurance, excess losses are the personal responsibility of the Pet Partners Handler. Delta’s commercial general liability insurance does not provide coverage for losses that are caused by intentional acts or as a result of a Pet Partners Team acting outside of the scope of Delta Volunteer activities. Such losses are the personal responsibility of the Pet Partners handler. Delta’s commercial general liability insurance as a $2,000,000 total limit and a $1,000,000 limit per incident. That includes a medical expense limit of $5,000 for any one person. These limits may change.
The preceding is a general overview, and is for information purposes only. It does not create a contract or other legal obligation of the Delta Society and may not be relied upon for that purpose. The details and precise language of the insurance policy must be examined to understand the extent of and limits upon Delta’s commercial general liability insurance. Many of those details, some of which may be important or relevant, or may give rise to exceptions to the general statements above, are not referenced in this overview. If you have any questions regarding Delta’s commercial general liability insurance, please contact the Delta Society at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is there professional liability coverage for Pet Partners?
As a Pet Partner, you will be covered on the Pet Partners insurance policy when you are doing volunteer work as a Pet Partner. In cases where professionals are using animals in the context of their jobs, Pet Partners insurance for volunteers does not provide coverage. It is important that you understand your coverage in case of an incident.
What is ‘Pet Therapy?’
The term ‘pet therapy’ should be avoided because it is inaccurate and misleading. This term was widely used several decades ago to refer to animal behavior training programs. Today we use the terms “animal-assisted activities” or “animal-assisted therapy.” These are the terms that human service providers and volunteers use when referring to the involvement of animals in human treatment programs. We do animal-assisted therapy when we work directly with a licensed healthcare or human service provider to help patients meet specific and documented goals. We do animal-assisted activities when we visit at facilities, meet and greet people to brighten their day and provide comfort or do a demonstration in front of a group of people.
What is the difference between service and therapy animals?
Service animal is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (federal law, 1990) as any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. This can include guide, mobility, sound alert, and medical alert/response work. Their work is handler-focused and benefits their handlers who have disabilities. Federal law generally permits qualified people who have disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in all places of public accommodation. Service animals are not considered “pets.” For more information about service animals, check out the National Service Dog Center at www.deltasociety.org.
Therapy animals and their handlers are trained to provide specific human populations with appropriate contact with animals. They are usually the personal pets of the handlers and accompany their handlers to the site they visit, but therapy animals may also reside at a facility. There are specific criteria for health, grooming, and behavior for therapy animal teams. While managed by their handlers, their work is not handler-focused and instead provides benefits to others. Therapy animals are not usually service animals. Federal law, which protects the rights of qualified individuals with disabilities, has no provision for people to be accompanied by therapy animals in places of public accommodation such as restaurants, grocery stores, or other places that have a “no pets” policy.
What is Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy?
Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal is incorporated as an integral part of the clinical healthcare treatment process. AAT is delivered or directed by a professional health or human service provider who demonstrates skill and expertise regarding the clinical application of human-animal interactions.
Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) provide opportunities for motivational, educational and/or recreational benefits to enhance a person’s quality of life. AAA are delivered by a professional, para-professional, or volunteer who demonstrates knowledge about animals and the human populations with which they interact.
Terms, definitions, and descriptions for personnel involved in visiting and residential animal programs are quoted from “Standards of Practice for Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy” (Delta Society, 1996). This book is distributed internationally and is in use in many healthcare facilities.
What types of healthcare facilities have visiting animals?
Nationally you will find visiting animals in virtually every kind of healthcare facility – acute care hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals, nursing homes, groups homes, schools, daycare, etc.
Can people in hospitals catch diseases from animals?
Some people think that the animals that visit are cleaner than people who visit! Before animals can be registered with the Delta Society as Pet Partners, they must have a thorough veterinary checkup. In addition, it is the handler’s responsibility prior to each visit to look for any signs of ill health or parasites, bathe and groom their animal, file toenails smooth, etc. Facilities welcome Pet Partner visiting animals with open arms – as they are healthy and clean model citizens!
For additional information please visit these websites:
Information included in this document provided by the Delta Society
Oregon Coast Therapy Animals, P.O. Box 335, Newport, OR 97365
Pet Partners Affiliate #23518