pet therapy dog visits patient

Our newest UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital volunteers are the 4-legged variety. As members of our Paw Providers Team, pet therapy volunteers and their dogs provide emotional and healing support to our patients.

therapy dog with patient

Being in a hospital can be a scary thing. Paw Provider teams work to reduce our patient’s anxiety, lift their mood, provide much-needed comfort and improve their experience and outcomes.

Paw Providers are special dogs working in our Main Hospital entrances and the Outpatient center clinics. They bring joy and smiles as they greet and escort patients and families to their destination and visit patients at the bedside and playrooms.

If you are interested in becoming a pet therapy volunteer, first you will need to become registered with one of our partner organizations as a Therapy Dog Team. Upon successful completion of registration, and submission of your application paperwork, you and your dog may apply to become volunteers in our Paw Provider Team!

Step One: Therapy Dog Team Registration

Paw Provider teams are registered with one of the two approved organizations:

  1. Alliance of Therapy Dogs
  2. Pet Partners

When registering, an evaluator will test you and your dog. Your dog needs to be calm, predictable, pass basic obedience skills and be comfortable in a variety of settings and responsive to you. We suggest that your dog be at least two years old when tested, so we have a reasonable expectation that the dog's behavior isn’t going to change very much.

Requirements to Become a Paw Provider Team

  • Be age 18 or older
  • Commit to an average of 3 visits per month.
  • Have no criminal record and pass a background check
  • Be in good general physical and mental health

Our onboarding process includes the following:

  • Volunteer application and (2) reference forms
  • An interview with you and your dog
  • Background check
  • Orientation and quiz
  • Health screening
  • Placement specific training and shadowing
  • You will have up to 8 weeks to complete processing

Additional Requirements:

  • Copy of Current Pet Vaccination Records
    All vaccinations must be current and must have completed an annual physical exam.
  • Current Pet Therapy Registration
    A copy of current Pet Therapy Registration membership is proof, every year, that our dogs have been tested by the vet and that the team's liability insurance is in effect.
  • Dogs must be clean, well-groomed and parasite free.
  • Dogs must be obedience trained and work well on a leash.

Application Process

  1. Submit a Volunteer Application
  2. Submit (2) Reference Forms
    Each reference form must be completed by non-relatives and preferably by someone you’ve known at least 6 months.
  3. In preparation for the interview, complete: Pet Therapy Interview Questions 
  4. Upon successful completion of registration and submission of your application paperwork, our office will contact you to schedule an appointment.

Cancellation Notice: If you are unable to make your appointment, please call or email to cancel.

Volunteer Office

  1. Provisional Acceptance Letter
    If accepted into our Pet Therapy program, you will receive a 'provisional acceptance' email with instructions to complete our:
  1. Background check
  2. Health screening
  3. Orientation quiz

Once we receive all of your completed documents, we will contact you to discuss placement and a start date.

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Paw Providers Pet Therapy Dog Program