Pet Therapy Volunteers
Please note, patient visitors will be limited to no more than one for the patient’s entire hospital stay or visit. Children under the age of 18 will no longer be allowed as visitors. For more information on our ongoing response to COVID-19 in Gainesville, Jacksonville, and Central Florida, visit our coronavirus website.Click to learn more
In 1995, a UF Health Shands Hospital registered nurse developed a pet visitation program. Volunteer Services welcomed the first pet visit on February 13, 1996. "Andy," an 11-year-old golden retriever, brought smiles to the very first patient at UF Health to benefit from a pet visit.
Since then, we continue to have Pet Therapy volunteers as well as personal pet visitation. Behind each volunteer (human and canine) and every single volunteer hour, there is a story. All of our pet therapy volunteers have great love for animals and a great desire to help our patients.
Benefits of Pet Therapy
Studies show that pet visitation brings a threefold benefit:
- Reduction of stress
- Enhancement of self-esteem
- Opportunity to express feelings
Our volunteers bring smiles to patients and staff. The presence of dogs in the hospital allows patients to feel more at home by giving them the opportunity to reminisce about their own dogs. It's always a treat to experience the unconditional love that dogs provide our patients. Dogs do not notice IVs, bandages, burns or dressing gowns.
We are looking for pet therapy volunteers willing to volunteer on a regular or semi-regular basis. To participate, your dog must be at least one-year-old, have current vaccination records and must be a registered therapy dog with a national therapy dog organization.
Discover whether or not your pet would make a good volunteer below. If your pet would bring smiles to patients' faces, learn how to apply below.
Pet Therapy Volunteer Application Process
If you would like to volunteer to participate in the pet therapy program, please complete the following steps:
- Ensure that your dog is registered as a therapy dog with a national organization. These include:
- Alliance of Therapy Dogs
- Pet Partners (formerly Delta)
- Therapy Dogs International
- If your dog is registered with another therapy dog organization, please contact our office to see if we will accept that registration.
- Complete the Pet Therapy Volunteer application online.
- Complete the Pet Therapy volunteer requirements.
- Contact our office at 352.265.0360 to schedule an interview and a shadowing opportunity with your dog.
Pet therapy volunteers will be shadowed in the hospital setting twice prior to volunteering independently.
Information to bring to your Interview:
- Copy of your dog’s therapy organization registration.
- Your dog’s vaccination records.
- Volunteer’s Immunization Records, including the flu shot.
- Certificate of completion of the Online Orientation.
- Security and Confidentiality Form.
- Clearance from Occupational Health
Volunteer Services is located on the ground floor of UF Health Shands Hospital in room G153 around the corner from the Atrium elevators.
Volunteers wear a green Pet Therapy Volunteers polo with khaki colored pants, athletic shoes that cover the entire foot and a UF Health volunteer ID badge.
Volunteer Services provides parking for pet therapy volunteers.
Volunteers must leave their personal belongings and medications at the Volunteer Office inside lockers. Locks are provided by the Volunteer Services Department.
Dog(s) must be disease-free, flea treated, immunized, bathed and groomed within the 24 hours prior to the visit.
Duties and general guidelines
- Volunteers must wear a volunteer identification badge and sign in and out at Volunteer Services.
- The dog will be supervised and transported in a carrier or on a leash. The dog shall be maintained on a leash at all times..
- Only one dog will be permitted on a room at the same time.
- The charge nurse or designee shall be responsible for identification of patients requesting a pet visit and those not eligible to participate.
- Patient and family members will be supervised by the volunteer during contact with dog.
- Clean-up is the responsibility of the pet handler.
- Any dog becoming disruptive will be removed from the facility.
- Volunteers are asked to maintain patient confidentiality.
- Do not bring friends or family members along when visiting patients.
- Be sure to store your personal belongings in a locker before visiting patient rooms.
- Refrain from giving medical advice or performing any duties requiring medical licensure.
- Do not visit patients without first contacting Volunteer Services.
- Do not assist patients in or out of bed or chair or transport patient from one room to another. Ask nursing staff to assist patient.
- Pet therapy animals will not interact with or have contact with ICU patients, immunocompromised patients or patients on precautions, without approval of the Chief Nursing Officer.
If you would like additional information, please call Volunteer Services at 352-265-0360.