Frequently Asked Questions

How is the Love On 4 Paws program different from other animal assisted therapy programs?

The Love On 4 Paws program is different in several ways.

  1. We offer our volunteers a wide choice of locations to visit, spread all over the city. Many other programs only operate from within a single hospital, or require that you do the legwork to find one or more facilities that will accept you.
  2. We offer those we visit an instant, "Polaroid-like" picture as a memento of the visit, free of charge. These pictures sometimes become treasured keepsakes.
  3. We require our volunteers to average 3 visits per month, arrive at the scheduled time, dress and behave in a professional manner. Other programs may have less rigorous requirements.

Are there any age restrictions for volunteers?

For the animal, no restrictions except the ability to pass the Love On 4 Paws orientation testing. Humans, however, must be 18 years of age or older.

What makes a good therapy animal?

Temperament and sociability are the most important factors we are looking for in a therapy animal. We want an animal that is self-assured and confident, without being aggressive: an animal that has been well socialized and exposed to many types of situations, people and animals. An animal who is friendly and who really likes people is a promising candidate. The dog (cat or rabbit) must be well-behaved - no jumping, running around, barking, or licking people uncontrollably - and must always be under the handler's precise control. In addition, a therapy animal must be comfortable working around people who are bedridden or in wheelchairs; they must be able to deal with the excited squealing and grabbing of small children, the beeping and alarms of medical equipment, and the unpredictability of patient or parent reactions. In addition to all of this, these wonderful animals must enjoy their work.

Pedigree is not as issue, only temperament and behavior. Love On 4 Paws has dogs from show winning breeders, dog pounds and even dumpsters (really!)

How Can I Prepare My Dog To Become A Therapy Dog?

Enroll yourself and your dog in obedience classes. We recommend classes because other dogs will be present. Your dog must learn to focus on you despite whatever else may be going on. In addition, we often work in teams of five or six at the hospital, so it is imperative that your dog not become too excited or distracted in the presence of other dogs.

To pass the Love On 4 Paws test, your dog must have a solid "sit", "stay", "down", "come", and "leave it". "Leave it" is the command we use to stop inappropriate behavior, such as picking up a pill from the floor or sniffing another dog. Your dog must also be able to do loose leash walking. While we do not require formal heeling, it would be hazardous to allow your dog to pull you down hospital corridors. Harnesses and Gentle Leaders are not allowed -- just dog collars.

We also strongly suggest that you teach your dog potty commands. It is important that your dog be given the opportunity to eliminate immediately before entering the hospital. A dog that is able to potty on command is unlikely to have an accident in the hospital.

How long does it take to become an active volunteer?

After you pass the Love On 4 Paws evaluation, it usually takes a few months before you'll be visiting on your own. During those months, you'll be obtaining clearances from hospitals, and then making your initial visits accompanied by a Love On 4 Paws "coach".

Where do Love On 4 Paws therapy teams work?

Our teams work in hospitals, schools, and assisted living facilities.

How do my animal and I become volunteers?

If you've read this far, you've already started! The next step is to click the "Volunteer" link at the top of this page, and follow the steps shown there.

How much does it cost?

Before you attend the Love On 4 Paws orientation, you will need to pay for a physical exam done by your own veterinarian. Since many contagious conditions do not have obvious symptoms, we must ensure, for everyone's safety, that all animals attending the orientation and evaluation are healthy. In addition, there is a one-time orientation and evaluation fee of $50. If your animal passes the evaluation, we provide the uniform, a smock or polo shirt for you and a vest for your animal, free of cost.

What kind of commitment is required?

The required commitment to be an active volunteer for the Love On 4 Paws program is three visits a month. Each visit will last approximately 2 hours. Scheduling visits is done on our automated scheduling system, and we ask you to sign up in advance so we can notify the facility you will be visiting with your animal.

Can I participate even if I do not have a dog, cat, or rabbit?

In general, the answer is no. To join Love On 4 Paws, you will need to pass our orientation testing with your animal.

How do I become a Love On 4 Paws Volunteer?

Thank you for asking. Please contact Suni Cookson at (310) 547-2200 or complete and submit the online volunteer questionnaire.

How can I help the Love On 4 Paws program?

First and foremost, help the program by becoming a volunteer with your animal. However, we can always use money donations to offset expenses for film, cameras, uniforms, insurance, etc. None of our volunteers or officers or directors gets any pay, but we still have to buy things.