How we do it here at Pets as Therapy
What is the PAT application process?
Becoming a volunteer with Pets As Therapy.
Thank you for considering becoming a Pets As Therapy volunteer. Our charity provides comfort, happiness and emotional well-being to many people each week. The joy this brings to the volunteer, in our experience, is immense and you and your pet’s time is such a worthwhile gift to others.
The below information will help you decide whether Pets As Therapy volunteering is for you.
The application process involves:
- Completing the application form; providing two character references and a copy of your pet’s vaccination certificate; having your dog or cat’s temperament assessed and payment of an annual subscription fee of £19 (or £29 for a joint subscription).
- In return you will receive a car sticker and an ID tag for your PAT Pet as well as your own ID Badge.
- At busy times of the year, it may take up to 12 weeks for your application to be processed.
PAT Pets come in all shapes and sizes:
- Pedigrees or cross-breeds, from Chihuahuas to Irish Wolfhounds and Moggies to Maine Coon. If you think your dog or cat might be suitable, you are half way there!
- Dogs and cats must be a minimum age of 9 months and have been with their owner for at least 6 months before applying.
- All visiting pets must be fully vaccinated, wormed and protected against fleas. Records are required by the charity and each volunteer is requested to send copies when boosters have been administered.
Your dog or cat will need to be assessed by a local accredited Pets As Therapy Temperament Assessor as part of the application process. The assessment checks that your dog or cat is sociable and friendly that it is calm and gentle when being stroked or handled and that they aren’t overly fearful of new and unexpected stimuli.
What does the Temperament Assessment entail?
Dogs need to be able to:
- Walk on a relaxed lead, without excessive pulling and without the use of head collars, harnesses or check chains. Why? PAT dogs need to be under the owner’s control at all times, without relying on the use of training or behaviour correction aids.
- Accept being stroked and handled and having their paws, tail and ears checked by the assessor. Why? PAT dogs have to accept being patted, often vigorously, by patients or clients. They need to not be overly worried about having their paws, ears, or tail handled by a stranger. The assessor will check that the dog’s nails are trimmed short and you should keep the nails short at all times
- Take a food treat gently without snatching from the assessor. Why? Patients and clients love to be able to give their PAT dog a food treat. It is important that they do not snatch it because some patients, such as older people have very fragile skin.
- Respond appropriately to a sudden noise or disturbance in the room whilst being tested. Why? PAT dogs have to encounter lots of new and unexpected stimuli – they should not be overly fearful of this and recover quickly.
Owners need to be able to:
- Demonstrate control of their dog on the lead whilst holding a conversation with the assessor Why? Much of the volunteer’s time is spent talking to different people and PAT dogs need to be able to wait patiently under the owner’s control at all times.
- Groom their dog’s back, chest, stomach and tail. Why? If a dog readily accepts grooming by its owner, it demonstrates that the owner has control over their dog’s behaviour and the dog is willing to accept their authority.
- Demonstrate that they can restrict their dog by holding its collar or holding him/her firmly. Why? PAT dogs need to be able to accept restraint from their owners in case of an emergency in the establishment or if the owner needs to withdraw their dog quickly from a patient or client.
- Present their dog in a fit, clean and healthy condition. Why? Fit, healthy dogs behave appropriately as PAT dogs under demanding social and physical situations. A well groomed and clean dog is a sign of a responsible pet owner.
Assessors are also asked to make note of any other behaviours that they may observe throughout the assessment, for example: jumping up, pawing, or excessive licking. Such behaviours are not acceptable on Pets As Therapy visits.
Can my pet fail the assessment?
Sometimes, dogs are deferred following assessment and you will be invited to re-apply in 6mths time.
Below are the main reasons why dogs are deferred, which you may find useful to consider before presenting your dog for assessment. Deferrals are discussed and considered very carefully by the Charity – where there is considered to be an unacceptable risk to the clients/patients that we are visiting, the dog will be deferred. Assessors are trained to conduct the test in such a way that these behaviours are assessed fairly and consistently.
Jumping up is the main reason why dogs are deferred. The assessor is asked to note whether the dog jumps up, at whom (assessor or owner) and how many times. Jumping up is not allowed because of the danger of causing injury by knocking somebody over. It also indicates that the dog is not under the owner’s full control.
Pawing, or putting paws up
Dogs will be deferred if they put up one or both paws, or offer a paw repeatedly to either the assessor or owner. Pawing can cause considerable injury, particularly to elderly people who have very thin skin and the slower and poorer rates of healing in older people increase the risk of infection.
Pulling on the lead
Dogs will be deferred if the assessor notes that they pull strongly on the lead. This behaviour indicates that the dog is not under the owner’s full control.
Reluctance/backing away when being fussed
If the dog displays any signs of anxiety or reluctance when being fussed by the assessor, for example, backing away or struggling to get away, they will be deferred because such behaviours suggest a dog that is unwilling or unable to accept close or intense handling.
Vocalisations, such as barking or growling
Dogs that bark during the test will be deferred as barking can be indicative of anxiety or discomfort, or another unacceptable behaviour, for example, attention-seeking behaviour toward the owner.
Mouthing is basically an inhibited bite and, as such, is an unacceptable behaviour due to the risk of injury to patients/clients.
Licking is not accepted because it is considered a hygiene risk and may present a risk of infection to certain clients/patients. Licking can also be a sign of stress or anxiety that a dog displays when it is uncomfortable with a particular situation.
Taking food greedily
Snatching food so that the assessor can feel the dog’s teeth is not accepted due to the possible risk of injury to the client/patient if the dog is offered food whilst on a visit.
Considering if your dog may perform any of these behaviours during the test may be a useful indicator of whether it is ready or not to be presented for assessment.
Do I pay fees?
All volunteers and Voluntary Area Coordinators give their time freely to the Charity. Volunteers are required to pay an annual subscription to the Charity, which is currently £19 (or £29 for a joint subscription), this goes towards the volunteer’s liability insurance.
Expenses may be reimbursed by some establishments, but please enquire about this before you start visiting.
Do I have to buy branded Volunteer livery?
You are not required to wear any official Pets As Therapy livery other than your ID badges while on visits. If you still have old livery, you can continue to use it for your every day visits until you are able to replace it.
If you are to appear in publicity or a Head Office run event, you and your pet may be asked to wear official Pets As Therapy livery. If this is the case, you will be able to borrow the items you require from our extensive loan stock.
If however you would prefer to own your own items, the full range of Volunteer and PAT Pet livery is available to purchase from this website.
A recycling service for old livery will be available shortly. More details to follow.
How often am I expected to visit?
There is no set requirement on how often you need to undertake visits on behalf of Pets As Therapy, but regular visits are greatly appreciated by the residents and establishments. For further information please contact the Pets As Therapy Head Office.
What can I expect from PAT?
As a Volunteer for Pets As Therapy you can expect:
- Fair selection and recruitment.
- To do a rewarding and worthwhile task that benefits individuals and the community.
- Support from local volunteers (Voluntary Area Co-ordinators) and from the Charity.
- Not to be placed in situations which endanger you or your PAT Pet
- Due diligence for your health and safety.
- The Charity to recognise the rights, roles and responsibilities of you and your PAT Pet.
- To abide by any requirements of the establishments you visit.
What do PAT expect of their Volunteers?
As a Volunteer for Pets As Therapy you can expect:
- Operate to the agreed standards and policies of the Charity and uphold the vision, aims and strategy of the Charity at all times.
- Work as an individual and also as part of a team.
- Consult with the Charity if in any doubt.
- Give the establishment notice of any absence or intention to stop visiting.
- Inform the Charity should you need to stop visiting.
- Take advantage of support and supervision offered and give feedback.
- Try to sort out any problem informally before using formal grievance procedures
Raw Meat Based Diets (RMBDs)
Update, February 2018
Pets As Therapy has recently considered the potential risks posed when feeding Raw Meat Based Diets. Raw meat can contain not only parasites, but also the bacteria causing such serious infectious diseases as E-Coli, Salmonella and Listeria which can be extremely dangerous to humans. These bacteria are NOT killed by freezing the meat.
In the light of recent scientific and medical advice from a number of veterinary consultants we are updating our guidelines with the aim of minimising any health risks associated with PAT pet visits to the young, the elderly and the immuno-comprised recipients of our service.
An increasing number of NHS Trusts and education authorities now state in their Infection Prevention and Control Policies that they cannot accept visits from therapy dogs fed on raw meat and in order to ensure that PAT dogs are considered safe to visit schools and hospitals in future, it is our duty of care to comply.
Therefore, PAT pets should NOT be fed raw meat – or unpasteurised milk. This will reduce the potential risk of diseases such as E-coli, Salmonella and Listeria being transmitted to humans from our pets.
Safeguarding our clients is our key responsibility, so your understanding and co-operation in this matter is much appreciated.
If you would like further information on RMBDs, you may find the links below useful:
A short article in the Veterinary Record: http://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/182/2/50
An excerpt from the BBC programme Trust Me, I’m A Vet: https://www.facebook.com/bbctwo/videos/1710335305662894/
A view from the Food and Drugs Administration in America: https://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/AnimalHealthLiteracy/ucm368730.htm
Update, February 2018
Pets As Therapy has undertaken a review of its vaccination protocols. In the light of recent scientific advice, the following decision on vaccination using homeopathy has been taken by the Board:
With immediate effect from the date of this update, Pets As Therapy can no longer accept vaccination using homeopathic prophylactics for PAT dogs.
If your dog is currently treated with homeopathic prophylactics, this may continue until their next review, when inoculations using ethical veterinary products against leptospirosis, administered and certified by a registered veterinary surgeon must replace the use of homeopathic treatments.
Current advice from experts in the field is that the effectiveness of protection provided by homeopathic nosodes is not proven. They consider the risk this represents to public health is unacceptable.
This decision has been reached after seeking advice from experts in this field and lengthy discussions of the implications of this course of action. Pets As Therapy is very aware that a number of our valued volunteers currently use homeopathic vaccines to treat their dogs, but safeguarding our clients is our key responsibility, so your understanding and co-operation in this matter is much appreciated.
It is also recommended that dogs visiting establishments on behalf of Pets as Therapy should receive inoculations against Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus at the frequency recommended by your vet.
Pets As Therapy has also taken into account recent policy changes away from the acceptance of homeopathy by an increasing number of NHS Trusts and education authorities. Pets As Therapy has a duty of care to minimise any risk to our clients and be pro-active in Infection Control and Disease Prevention. We aim to provide the best and safest possible service to the people in hospitals, care homes, hospices, schools and other establishments we visit every day, many of whom are children, the elderly and the immuno-compromised.
Vaccinations for PAT dogs
Update, February 2018
Pets As Therapy has undertaken a review of its vaccination protocols as part of our ongoing duty of care to minimise any risk to our clients and be pro-active in Infection Control and Disease Prevention. We aim to provide the best and safest possible service to the people in hospitals, care homes, hospices, schools and other establishments we visit every day, many of whom are children, the elderly and the immuno-compromised.
We operate within strict and frequently updated agreements in partnership with NHS Trusts, education authorities and private long-term care establishments. Minimising the risk to patients and residents from zoonotic diseases which can be passed to humans from visiting animals is one of our highest priorities.
Zoonotic diseases in dogs include Leptospirosis, therefore all dogs visiting establishments on behalf of Pets as Therapy must receive an initial course of inoculations against Leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis booster vaccinations must be administered annually.
Copies of the dog’s current vaccination certificate must be forwarded to PAT’s Head Office as part of the annual volunteer renewal process.
We also highly recommended that dogs visiting establishments on behalf of Pets as Therapy should receive inoculations against Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus at the frequency recommended on the product data sheets as recommended by your vet.
In the light of recent veterinary advice, Pets as Therapy can no longer accept vaccination using homeopathic prophylactics for PAT dogs.
Current advice from experts in this field is that the effectiveness of protection provided by homeopathic nosodes is not proven. They consider the risk this represents to public health is unacceptable. (See our latest Homeopathy Update for more information).
Please click the Factsheet to open link in a new tab:
Factsheet 1 – The Application and registration process.
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