For Patients and Families
Handler Applicant Requirements
- Be at least 18 years old (due to the multiple demands of handling a dog and interacting with patients and families)
- Be willing to become a hospital volunteer (includes personal interview, criminal background check, review of immunizations, tuberculosis screening, five hour volunteer orientation, and annual flu shot).
- Agree to undergo the handler and canine screening process
- Be willing to commit to two visits per month for a minimum of one year
- Agree to adhere to all requirements and guidelines of the Boston Children's Hospital Pawprints Dog Visitation Program. This includes agreeing to bathe and groom the dog within 24 hours of each visit.
- Handlers must have an ability to work in a busy, complex hospital environment, be team-oriented and have strong communication skills. Volunteering in the Pawprints Program is emotionally complex and requires an ability to separate one's own needs from those of the patients and families. The handler must learn to establish caring relationships while maintaining clear boundaries. *Please note: This is particularly challenging when the handler is a medically trained staff person or has some prior working relationship with staff (i.e., parent of a child who has received or is currently receiving care at Children's). During the volunteer period, the handler must limit interactions with Children's staff, patients, and families to handler duties as defined by the Pawprints Program.
Canine Applicant Requirements
- Dog's age: 2 years or older
- Ownership of dog: The dog must be owned by the handler who will be responsible for meeting all Pawprints guidelines and who will participate in the visits with the dog.
- Registration with a therapy dog organization (See Therapy Dog Links for more information.)
Canine Health Requirements
- Be in good physical health (as determined by a licensed veterinarian) and be vaccinated against rabies and DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza)
- Have an annual fecal and heartworm check
- Be on year-round heartworm preventive
- Be on year-round flea/tick prevention program
- Mellow, calm and gentle in a variety of environments
- Able to reliably respond to basic obedience commands (sit, down, come, stay)
- Enjoys spending time with all types of people and being petted