What is Animal Companions?
- Animal Companions is a not for profit organisation and registered charity based in Western Australia (ABN: 18 414 074 195).
- We are a group of volunteers who provide therapeutic visits with our dogs to people in hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities
- We are an incorporated charity, run entirely by volunteers
- We have gift-deductability status for financial donations
What is a therapy dog?
A therapy dog is a pet dog accredited to visit people in nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities while accompanied by its owner.
What type of work do you do?
Most of our volunteers take part in Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA). These are the general “meet and greet” activities that involve pets visiting people (link).
A few of our volunteers sometimes take part in Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). This involves the use of a dog to assist with a particular individual’s healthcare treatment
Where do you visit?
- Most of our volunteers visit aged care facilities and nursing homes
- We also have teams visiting public and private hospitals, palliative care units, treatment centres, special needs facilities, schools, psychiatric units and prisons
- Most of our volunteers live in the Perth metropolitan area, but we also have members in the south-west of WA including Mandurah, Bunbury, Busselton and Bridgetown.
How can I become involved?
- To become accredited with your dog as a visiting volunteer you will need to pass an assessment with your dog and attend a seminar.
- If you do not want to become accredited with your dog but would like to join as a Friend of Animal Companions please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How much does it cost to join?
- $35 in the first year to join and become an accredited member (includes T-shirt/ID badge), and then $20 per year.
- $20 in the first year to become a non-accredited Friend of Animal Companions (no T-shirt/ID badge) and then $20 per year.
What do you offer members?
We offer our members:
- public liability and volunteer insurance when visiting
- T-shirt and ID badge once accredited
- walks, social and educational events
- Facebook group
- discount pet products
- long service awards
- opportunity to share experiences with fellow dog lovers
How old does my dog have to be?
Dogs must be at least 18 months old before they can be accredited. There is no maximum age, provided your dog is confirmed by your Vet to be fit and healthy.
How old do I have to be to join?
Volunteers must be at least 18 years old to join. The maximum age is 85 years.
Can any dog be accredited?
Any dog can become a therapy dog, provided it is at least 18 months old, has a suitable temperament and passes our assessment. We have all types of dog breeds, from Chihuahua’s to Great Danes and every size in between.
Does my dog need any special training?
There is no special training required to become a therapy dog. However, your dog will need to:
- have basic obedience (sit, stay, walk to heel, come to you when called)
- be reasonably relaxed and calm
- enjoy being patted by strangers
- cope with loud noises and equipment such as wheelchairs and walking frames
- be well behaved near other dogs
How can I become accredited?
To become accredited to visit with your dog, you need to:
- complete a volunteer application form
- provide a veterinary health check for your dog
- pass an assessment with your dog; and
- participate in a half-day seminar without your dog
What does the assessment involve?
The Team Assessment lasts approximately 10 -15 minutes. It is conducted in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and judges basic “good manners” and temperament in order to determine suitability for our visiting program.
What does the seminar involve?
The half-day seminar (without your dog) covers what to expect while visiting, what is expected of you, dealing with difficult situations and what support is provided. There is a graduation at the end.
How long does it take to become accredited?
- We generally hold 1 or 2 assessments and 1 seminar each year.
- You will need to attend both an assessment and seminar before you become accredited
Will I need a Police Clearance?
You may be required to provide either a National Police Certificate or a Working with Children Check, depending on the requirements of your facility. Forms are available on-line or at most Australia Post outlets.
Where can I visit?
Once accredited we try and place you at a facility close to your home or at a facility on our waiting list. If you have a specific facility in mind please discuss this with our Facility Coordinator once you have been accredited.
How often would I be required to visit?
- You are expected to visit regularly with your dog once accredited
- How often you visit will depend on how much time you have available and what you have agreed with your facility.
- Most volunteers visit either once a week or once a fortnight.
- Some visit more often or more than one facility if they wish to and have the time
When and how long would I be required to visit?
- The days and times you visit will depend on your availability and on the needs of your facility
- You would usually visit on the same agreed day and time each visit
- Some of our volunteers visit during the week; others visit at weekends
- Most volunteers visit for 1 – 2 hours each time
What if I am unable to visit?
- If you or your dog is unwell, or if you are going away for a short break, simply let your facility know
- If you will be unable to visit for a long period of time, you will also need to advise Animal Companions.
Can I visit with more than one dog?
You can be accredited with more than one dog, but you would only be able to visit with one accredited dog at a time.
Can I visit with a dog that isn’t mine?
We normally only accredit volunteers with their own dog or family dog, as there needs to be a well-established and close bond between dog and handler.
Dog and handler must have known each other well for at least 6 months to be accredited.
Can I visit with any other animals (e.g. cats, rabbits, ferrets)?
Animal Companions currently only visits with accredited dogs.
I’d like to visit but I don’t have a dog. Can you provide me with one?
We don’t have dogs available to take visiting. We only accredited people who already have their own dog.
I live outside the Perth metro area. Can I join?
- If you live outside the metro area and would like to become a visiting volunteer you would need to travel to Perth to attend an assessment and then a seminar. We do not have the capacity to hold these events in regional areas.
- There would also need to be a suitable facility interested in having therapy visits near to where you live
Can my dog be accredited so I can take it to work with me?
We only accredit people and their dogs to visit facilities on a voluntary basis. If you want to take your dog into work with you as part of your employment, you would need to arrange this directly with your workplace.