Volunteer Opportunities: Dog Therapy
UF Health Jacksonville's dog therapy program ensures a positive experience for patients,
visitors and staff. Our policy allows registered therapy animal teams that meet
certain requirements to visit patients. If you are not already registered with your dog,
you may learn about the process below.
"Four legged volunteers work their magic to improve the emotional health of patients,
residents, students, and staff!"
Sharing the love your pet is probably the best volunteer "job" ever! The importance
of the human-animal bond has been documented for many centuries. But over the last
few decades scientific research has revealed that interacting with a friendly animal
can provide many physiological and psychological benefits.
- Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Releases endorphins (oxytocin) that reduce pain and have calming effect
- Lifts spirits and reduces depression
- Encourages communication and socialization
- Provides comfort
- Decreases anxiety
- Increases self-esteem
- Reduces boredom
A great way to know if your dog is ready is to take a Canine Good Citizen test. This is an excellent way to prepare
for doing dog therapy and is one of the requirements for our program.
Also, a requirement for our program is registration with a certified organization.
This is an important step! Becoming registered by a national therapy animal registering
organization demonstrates that you and your pet have been trained, screened and
evaluated for therapy work. Registration also provides you with liability insurance,
which protects you and the facility while you are volunteering.
Two therapy animal registering organizations have a presence in Northeast Florida,
Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD)
and Pet Partners.
ATD and Pet Partners differ in training, cost, testing requirements and membership
renewal. We recommend that you research them both and then pick the one that you
think will be the best fit for you and your dog.
There is a comparison
chart that shows the main differences between the two organizations. Please
click on each link below for more details about the registration process for each
Registered dogs must have verification from a veterinarian of their inoculations
and temperament. Once accepted into the program, the handler will go through a volunteer
orientation through our volunteer services department. The therapy dogs are recognized
by their UF Health Jacksonville badges. If you are interested in the dog therapy
program, please print and fill out the following forms in addition to the standard