Not all of the facilities Helping Paws visits require training/certification, but for those that do we offer CGC, Therapy Certifications, Assistance Dog Training and Reading Ready Dogs. 

Click here for information on our B.A.R.K.S. program!

FOR POTENTIAL THERAPY TEAMS:  If you would like visit a few of our facilities with our teams--with or without your dog--before making your decision to join Helping Paws, you may do so, by contacting one of HP’s Facility Directors.  They are listed in the table located on our locations page. Without your furbaby, you can just shadow the teams working that day.  If you bring your furbaby, you will need to be evaluated as a potential therapy dog team before entering the facility.  Each HP Facility Director is HP certified to conduct this evaluation.  A copy of the evaluation is available on request. Just contact the HP Facility Director and tell her/him you are a potential new member and wish to be evaluated.  The HP Facility Director or someone appointed by them will meet you at the site early and do the evaluation.  You will make some visits with her/him and be allowed to accompany the whole group if you pass the evaluation that day.  We suggest you make your first visit without your furbaby, and then try 2-3 visits with your pet before making a final decision to join Helping Paws.


Until you become an official Helping Paws member, you will not be covered by Helping Paws liability and accident insurance plans.  Therefore, if you choose to do the evaluations describe above--before becoming a member—we request that you fill out and sign the enclosed RELEASE OF LIABILITY FOR PROSPECTIVE MEMBERS and give it to the Helping Paws Facility Director on the day of your visit.

Helping Paws is a therapy dog-assistance animal organization.  We provide both animal-assisted therapy activities (AATA) and animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and full assistance dogs on a limited basis.  Helping Paws is a national, professional organization somewhat like other national training organizations but are organized and operate quite differently.


1.         We always know where our teams are working and how well they are doing. We have Helping Paws facility directors, who are HP certified evaluators, monitoring and evaluating our teams when they are working on site at least once a month. We are not a therapy training organization only. Call or email for more information on other programs.


2.         We visit our facilities mostly as a group lead by a HP Facility Director (HP-FD).  This allows the members to get to know each other and for new members to receive the support and expertise of the experienced members.  It also ensures that our dogs are always capable of working with other dogs or meeting dogs at the facilities and homes they visit. Additionally, it allows the patients and residents to visit with a variety of dogs and people at each visit.  However, we also work with patients on a one-to-one basis.


3.         Our certified therapy-assistance animal training program requires the dog to earn its AKC-Canine Good Citizen (AKC-CGC) and/or HP G.O.O.D dog certification in a separate class and test BEFORE it can take our therapy-assistance dog certification class and earn its therapy and or therapy-assistance dog certification.  Our therapy dog certification test is designed to make sure that the dog-handler relationship is one in which the dog totally trusts the handler to be a benevolent and protective partner in any type of situation they may encounter.


4.         Helping Paws does not allow therapy teams who have not earned their CGC and TD certifications in separate training classes to visit hospitals or work with children.  This allows our animal behaviorist and/or trainers to evaluate the dog and handler over an extended period of time (5-6 months) in various situations to determine the true temperament of the dog and its relationship with its owner/handler. We do NOT make exceptions for dogs that have been certified through other therapy dog organizations since most of them allow the dogs to take one test and grant both the CGC and therapy dog certifications at the same time. 


5.         We retest our certified therapy dog teams every two years and the Helping Paws Facility Directors are evaluating the dog and its handler on every therapy visit.  Each Helping Paws Facility Director has the authority to refer any team to our Trainers/Animal Behaviorists for evaluation for additional training and to stop a team from visiting until our animal behaviorists gives their permission to continue.

For working therapy-assistance dogs, Helping Paws requires our Therapy-Assistance Dog Certification for membership in Helping Paws. However, we do have associate memberships for people who do not have dogs or therapy quality dogs who want to assist our certified teams or management.



Requirements for membership:


1)         Animals must be at least one year old and not have any communicable disease.


2)         All working certified teams, are required to make AT LEAST ONE FACILITY VISIT PER MONTH.


3)         We have a long list of volunteer opportunities list on the Volunteer Profile.  Most committees should not require more 1-2 hours per month plus drive time.  If a committee is working on a special short-term project then more time may be required during the project time.

4)         Due to HP's affiliation and contact with children and others that cannot protect and defend themselves, all perspective new members must pass a criminal background check.



Healthcare certification requires nursing care facilities and hospitals to be able to produce the vaccinations records of any dog/pet on site.  If the facility can not do this, they could be fined or lose their license to operate.  So you will not have to carry your fur therapist's records with you constantly, Helping Paws keeps the records on file and up-dates all of the facilities we visit on a monthly basis.  Helping Paws requires that all fur therapists be current on their rabies shot.  As for other vaccinations, Helping Paws is following the current recommendations of veterinarian immunologists since recent studies have shown that many of the vaccination are causing an increase in cancer and autoimmune diseases in our pets.  Helping Paws current policy requests all vaccinations for the first 3 years of life to build up immunity levels.  After that, Helping Paws will accept antibody titers showing immunity in place of vaccinations.  Exceptions are made on the three-year requirement for dogs with medical problems that might be aggravated by excessive vaccinations.

For further information, contact
For further information Florida division, contact


Denise Hutson & Jeani Gray with Maxwell, Cassie and Snow. Santa Cassie   

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