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Pet VIP Therapy & Visitation

Pet VIP Teams bring smiles and love

If there is anything we understand at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, it’s the strength and importance of the human-animal bond. Anyone who has gazed into a dog’s eyes when they were stressed, or sat with a cat when they were sad, knows the effect pets can have in our lives.

Through HSSA’s Pet VIP Therapy and Visitation Program, we share this unconditional love with those who need it most. Our teams bring their trained and certified pets to people of all ages in more than 80 facilities such as convalescent homes, hospitals, mental health centers, hospices, children’s facilities and schools. Pet visitation is a wonderful and vital therapeutic mode of promoting and maintaining wellness in our community.

 

Our pet visitation volunteers witness the emotional and psychological benefits of this therapy with each visit. Studies show that contact with an animal lowers blood pressure, decreases cholesterol levels, reduces anxiety, boosts the immune system, decreases aggression and increases socialization and communication.

Request a Pet VIP Visit

Visitation is provided by a handler and a Pet VIP pet. 

If you are a facility interested in having one of our Pet Visitation teams visit, please complete the request form or contact the Pet VIP Coordinator at Pet VIP email or 321-3704, ext. 153.

We cannot guarantee fulfillment requests. Requests need to be submitted at least 4 weeks in advance.

You can learn more about the different types of facilities here ».

The Pet VIP Therapy and Visitation Program is where a handler and their pet are certified to visit people of all ages in and around Southern Arizona; to include places such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, group homes, children’s facilities etc.  We screen test, train, and evaluate qualified pets and their handlers to become certified therapy animal teams. We currently have over 120 active volunteers, visiting over 96 facilities, and reach over 60,000 people each year.

In this program, handlers and therapy animals can practice Animal Assisted Activities (AAA), Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT), Animal Assisted Education (AAE) and Animal Assisted Psychotherapy (AAP). We can help you determine which program is right for you and your dog.

  • AAA is a general meet and greet of the public along with your animal.
  • AAT is where your animal assists a physical or occupational therapist in meeting specific measurable goals that are important to a patient’s recovery (stroke, trauma, physical injury etc.).
  • AAE is goal-directed interventions designed to promote improvement in cognitive functioning of the person(s) involved, and in which a specially trained dog-handler team is an integral part of the educational process.
  • AAP involves a Mental Health Professional working within their scope of training and experience, with an animal. The professional develops specific interventions that assist the client’s treatment goals, and are then documented.
man and girl smiling and sitting on park bench with dogs

Thanks to our generous supporters!

Thanks to a generous yearly $20,000 donation from Mel and Enid Zuckerman, owners of Canyon Ranch, the HSSA Pet VIP program continues to share the love with people throughout southern Arizona.

“Everyone in our family is a dog lover and we all treasure having dogs in our lives,” said Mel Zuckerman, “Nothing can lift the spirits better than the unconditional love and companionship of a pet.”

The partnership is a natural complement to Canyon Ranch’s mission of promoting and maintaining health and wellness. Thank you Canyon Ranch and Mel and Enid Zuckerman for your wonderful support!

How to be a Pet VIP

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona’s Pet VIP Therapy and Visitation Program offers pet owners the opportunity to certify pets of all species to provide visitations, as a volunteer, to HSSA-contracted facilities, specialty programs, and special events in all of Southern Arizona.  All original certifications will require the completion of a six-week Pet VIP testing and training session. Our training is conducted on a quarterly basis.

 

To become a Pet VIP, you must be able to make a commitment to the program required volunteer visitations. We ask that our teams (handler and pet) commit to 24 visits per year, starting the date of their certification. We also ask that the team makes the commitment of attending all three training classes for certification and both testing appointments.

 

While pet owners of all species attend all classes, our evaluations will be adjusted for non-canine species.

 

If you feel your companion animal has what it takes to be a great Pet VIP, please visit our website for further details to schedule an appointment for your team’s aptitude test.

We look forward to meeting you and your pet. Thank you for your interest in brightening the lives of so many in need!

 

  • Should be at least 1 yr old
  • Should own dog for at least 6 months
  • MUST already know basic commands such as sit, stay, down (previous training or certifications are a plus)
  • Should be able to walk on a loose leash
  • Must be up to date on shots and be licensed
  • Should get along with other dogs
  • Should get along with children
  • Must be spayed/neutered (unless there is a health issue)
  • Must not be currently employed as a service or emotional support animal (ESA)

Please be aware that training classes may be conducted via Zoom online conferencing.

To become a Pet VIP, please contact the Pet VIP Coordinator at Pet VIP email or 321-3704, ext. 153.

Session III: Summer Session

  • Week 1: Aptitude Test/ Sign Up for A Half-Hour Time Slot (by appointment only)
    Friday, July 10th and Saturday, July 11th between 10:00am-4:30pm

  • Week 2: Orientation & Training Class
    Friday, July 17th, 2020 from 1:00pm-4:00pm

  • Week 3: Training Class
    Friday, July 24th, 2020 from 1:00pm-4:00pm

  • Week 4: Training Class
    Friday, July 31st, 2020 from 1:00pm-4:00pm

  • Week 5: Final Evaluation/ Sign Up for a Half-Hour Time Slot (by appointment only)
    Friday, August 7th, 2020 between 9:30am-4:30pm

  • Week 6: Pet VIP Graduation Ceremony for Handlers, Pets, and Guests
    Friday, August 14th, 2020 from 11:00am-12:00pm. Pet VIP Round up 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm

Session IV: Fall Session

  • Week 1: Aptitude Test/ Sign Up for A Half-Hour Time Slot (by appointment only)
    Friday, September 25 or Saturday, September 26, 2020 between 10:00 am to 4:00pm

  • Week 2: Orientation & Training Class
    Friday, October 2, 2020 from 1:00pm-4:00pm

  • Week 3: Training Class Friday, October 9th, 2020 from 1:00pm-4:00pm

  • Week 4: Training Class Friday, October 16, 2020 from 1:00pm-4:00pm

  • Week 5: Final Evaluation / Sign Up for A Half-Hour Time Slot (by appointment only)
    Thursday, October 22 or Friday, October 23, between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm

  • Week 6: Pet VIP Graduation Ceremony (Handlers, Pets, and Guests)
    Friday, October 30, 2020 from 11:00am-12:00pm. Pet VIP Round up 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm

Have questions?

You can find the answers you need in our Pet VIP FAQ below. If you still have questions, please contact the Pet VIP Coordinator at Pet VIP email or 321-3704, ext. 153.