ASPCA Animal Assisted Therapy Programs

Are You Interested in Getting Involved In Animal-Assisted Therapy?

The ASPCA is a Community Partner of Pet Partners, a national non-for-profit that aims to improve human health through interactions with companion animals. We help carry out Pet Partners' mission by providing a full-service program to residents of New York City who wish to register their dogs and cats* as therapy animals. Therapy animals are reliable, controllable, and predictable pets that enjoy visiting hospitals, nursing homes, classrooms, libraries and other facilities.

*The ASPCA’s program deals with dogs and cats, but Pet Partners registers a variety of other companion animals. We can connect you to an evaluator who has experience with your particular species.

How do I become registered with Pet Partners if I live outside of the NYC area?

The "Courses & Evaluations" section of the Pet Partners website provides information about registration in other regions.

Once registered with Pet Partners, the ASPCA will assist Pet Partner teams with placement in facilities throughout the community, based on where they live, their interests, and the appropriate environment for both handler and animal. The ASPCA also provides supervision for teams who are just beginning to get their "paws wet" and would like assistance during their first visits. A member of the animal-assisted therapy program, or an experienced volunteer, will continue to accompany new teams on visits until they have comfortably settled in.

In addition to enriching lives and improving human health, a major goal of this program is to encourage greater community acceptance of dogs and cats. These exceptional animals are seen taking part in the healing processes of human beings in a variety of different situations and facilities. Oncology units, half-way houses, and homeless shelters, which would never have allowed animals to enter before, are now admitting them to help people feel better during times of hardship and pain.

How do I become a registered Pet Partners team through the ASPCA?

  1. Check that your animal meets the current behavior and health requirements issued by Pet Partners. You may also take this self assessment survey to see if you and your animal are ready to become an AAT team.
  2. Contact the ASPCA’s AAT department to request a screening questionnaire: 212-876-7700 extension 4426; [email protected]
  3. Submit the questionnaire and a staff member will contact you to discuss the results. If you are an appropriate match, you will be offered the option to enroll in a handler training workshop.
  4. After completion of the workshop, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to complete the required health forms.
  5. Once your vet confirms that your animal is healthy and up to date on vaccines, you may schedule your Skills and Aptitude Evaluation with the ASPCA.
  6. Submit the completed registration packet (including veterinary forms, evaluation results and registration fees) to Pet Partners, by mail or electronically. Photos for ID badges must be emailed to Pet Partners at the same time.
  7. Receive your registration acceptance letter and ID badge from Pet Partners.
  8. Apply to volunteer with a Pet Partners registered facility. The ASPCA AAT program can help you with this.
  9. Complete the volunteer registration and training requirements through the individual facility.
  10. Volunteer according to the facility’s schedule.
  11. Re-evaluate and renew your registration with Pet Partners every two (2) years.

Note: therapy animals are not service or assistance animals and are not granted legal rights of access. If you require a service animal, please contact a local member of Assistance Dogs International: for further information.

Upcoming Training Classes, Workshops and Evaluations

Therapy Dog Training Course - Wednesday Evenings, 520 8th Avenue Headquarters (next session begins Wednesday, September 2)

Animal Assisted Activities and Therapy present unique situations, environments, and people for you and your dog. These fun and interactive classes will teach you the handling skills necessary for animal assisted therapy visits, with a special focus on what you will need to know for your Evaluation. NOTE: This is a third party program offered by the ASPCA. All graduates will be required to complete the Pet Partners Handler Training Course before their Evaluation. For enrollment information, please contact ASPCA AAT: 212-876-7700 ext 4426; [email protected]

Pet Partner Handler Training Workshop – Sunday, September 13, 2015

The ASPCA will host a one day workshop taught by a Pet Partners Licensed Instructor. This is a learning experience for humans only. Dog owners should have already completed basic obedience training classes with their dog and/or have passed the Canine Good Citizen evaluation. Those with other pets that may be appropriate for AAT are also welcome to attend the workshop. During this all day event, you will learn the skills needed to visit safely with your animal in hospitals, nursing homes, classrooms and other facilities. You will also have the chance to observe a mock evaluation and find out what it takes to become a Pet Partners team.

Future individual evaluations for you and your animal are scheduled at the workshop. Lunch and hot beverages are provided for attendees. Vending machines are also available onsite.

When: Sunday, September 13, 2015. Please contact [email protected], 212-876-7700 extension 4426 to be placed on our interest list.

Where: ASPCA Adoption Center, Upper East Side

Fee: $125.00 in exact cash or check payable to the ASPCA

Pet Partner Team Evaluations

The ASPCA hosts evaluations, conducted by a Pet Partners Licensed Team Evaluator, by appointment. The Team Evaluation process assesses the animal/handler team; how well the handler interprets and manages the animal's behavior and how well the animal responds to the handler. The main emphasis being that the animal is under control at all times. This process is the safest way to identify acceptable visiting teams. For more details please visit

When: after completing the online course through or a live workshop at the ASPCA

Where: the ASPCA's Midtown office on Sunday afternoons, and our 92nd Street Headquarters on Monday evenings.

Fee: $30.00 in exact cash or check payable to the ASPCA (this fee is for those who completed the online course, this cost is included in the live workshop fee)

Frequently Asked Questions

Is my animal appropriate for animal assisted therapy (AAT)?

  • Does your animal enjoy interacting with and being touched by people, including strangers?
  • Is your animal confident in new environments?
  • Is your animal calm around other animals?
  • Have you known your animal for at least six (6) months?
  • Is your animal at least one (1) year old?

If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, your animal shows potential for animal assisted therapy work. Please contact AAT.department@aspca for further information and training.

What are the requirements for Pet Partner team registration?

Below is an overview of the requirements. Please visit the for further information.

  • Dogs and cats must have lived with their owner six months before they can be evaluated.
  • Dogs must be at least 1 year old before they are eligible to be registered by Pet Partners and begin volunteering.
  • Important characteristics of a therapy animal are that they are reliable, predictable, and controllable.
  • A therapy animal should be very social and enjoy interactions with people.
  • A therapy animal should show no aggression towards people or other companion animals (no growling, hissing, swatting, barking, lunging, attempting to bite, or bite history).
  • A dog should have basic obedience and be able to sit, down, stay, heel, leave it and come when called before taking the Pet Partners evaluation.
  • Animals that are fed a raw protein diet are not able to participate in the Pet Partner program. For more information, please visit the Pet Partners website:

The person handling the animal must be at least 10 years old. Handlers younger than 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian during the Pet Partners Evaluation, and must have written permission to participate from a parent or guardian.

Contact Us

ASPCA Animal Assisted Therapy Programs
[email protected]
(212) 876-7700 ext. 4426