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Membership Guidelines


West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc. (WMTD) is a group of AAA/AAT volunteers in Western Michigan. We do not accept monetary reimbursement for any of the services our members provide.

1. General Membership is open to all handler and dog teams that have met the certification requirements of WMTD and  may also be registered members of Pet Partners International, Inc. or Therapy Dogs, Inc. (If you are not registered you may access these websites from the"Links" page for information).
2. Dogs must have a current rabies vaccine. All other vaccinations, including the DHLPP, must be current, but if veterinarian advised against, a letter must be received to the board from the veterinarian prior to any classes or volunteering activities with the dog. Titers are accepted. Some facilities may prohibit a dog with titers-only to visit due to that facility's policy. A negative fecal is required prior to the prescreen test, yearly for active members; recommended every six months. 

3. Bordetella vaccines are required to be current within six months of the dog taking the Introduction to Pet Therapy class series, unless a letter from their veterinarian is received advising against such. Bordatella vaccines for all other WMTD level of memberships are recommended. Handlers are encouraged to talk to their veterinarians regarding the use of either nasal or injectable vaccine. Dogs given the nasal vaccines may not visit for one week following vaccination. Dogs given injectable vaccines may not visit for five days following initial injection, but have no restrictions following future vaccinations per their veterinarian’s recommendations. 

4. Flea/Tick Treatments are highly recommended. Dogs who wear Flea/Tick Collars must have them removed at least 50 hours prior to a visit and a full bath at least 24 - 48 hours prior to a visit. Dogs given topical flea/tick treatments must wait at least 24 hours following a treatment to visit.

5. Handlers are encouraged to give participating dogs an annual heartworm test, dependent upon the area in which the dog will be working, and have their dog on preventative medication as advised by their veterinarian.

6. Female dogs must not be “in season” when participating in therapy visits and club events.

7. Dogs must be clean, well groomed and parasite free. Including trimmed filed toenails, and clean teeth. Handlers must be clean, well groomed, and in compliance with the facility dress code or WMTD Handler Dress Code Guidelines.

8. Dogs must be well socialized with other dogs, and not food aggressive. Many facilities have a resident pet or visitor pet policies and club members often encounter other animals during therapy visits. WMTD members often participate in group therapy sessions held in dining rooms during non-meal times and “treats” are often given during therapy work.

9. A parent or guardian must accompany handlers under 16 years of age while participating in all WMTD visits and/or activities. The adult who is going to volunteer with the Junior Handler on volunteer visits must accompany Junior Handlers through all class sessions and shadow visits. Junior Handler Membership is open to handlers aged 10 to 17.

10. An initial team is one dog and one handler. Special programs may include one handler with two dogs which include additional training and testing, and limited volunteering availability. Dogs must also be kept on a leash at all times in accordance with registration liability  requirements, except when doing certain obedience or trick demonstrations.  Handlers are required to use a maximum of a 6-foot lead while participating in therapy visits. Due to liability considerations, we suggest using a traffic lead with large dogs. Flexi and chain leads are not allowed. National registration organizations may have more restrictive regulations, and these must be followed at all times to maintain liability.

11. Only quick-release, snap, limited-slip (martingale) or buckle collars in fabric or leather, a body step-in harness (leash clips to a ring on the back of the dog) in fabric or leather (including these no-pull harnesses: Freedom Harness, Sense-ation Harness, Sense-ible Harness) or the use of a head halter are accepted by WMTD. (Metal hardware such as buckles, slip rings, and D-rings are allowed on equipment). Metal collars and harnesses including martingales with metal links in the central connection sections, slip collars of any type, training collars such as pinch, prong, spike, electric, or spray colors or "no-pull" harnesses other than those specified above are not allowed in the therapy environment.
12. WMTD full member bandana or vests are not to be worn by WMTD registered dogs except during WMTD official volunteering, events, and activities. Socialization training in the community is not considered a volunteer event. A WMTD member can utilize a bandana or vest with Therapy-Dog-in-Training or the dog's name and "therapy dog", but not WMTD initial or log on the bandana/vest for socialization training or non-registered WMTD activities. 

13. A WMTD handler who has a therapy- (puppy or dog)-in-training may not have the dog visit in the optional WMTD vest or bandana until the dog has passed the general membership and health requirements. A bandana or tag stating “therapy-dog-in-training” is suggested. The handler is responsible for verifying in advance each facility’s guidelines on visits with dogs-in-training.

14. All therapy dogs and their handlers must follow all rules and regulations in each facility. If these rules are unclear, consult a staff member or activities director to explain them you.

15. If an incident occurs while on a visit, which causes injury to employee, resident or attendee in the facility: a) Immediately contact the facility’s supervisor on duty; b) document the incident on all required forms for the facility and c) contact the Director of Programs to complete the WMTD incident reporting process (also available through any WMTD board member).

16. At the discretion of the Board of Directors of WMTD, a handler and dog may be asked to temporarily or permanently refrain from further visits under the name of WMTD if the above guidelines fail to be strictly adhered to.

17. Requests for any exceptions to the Member Guidelines shall be submitted in writing to the Vice President of Membership for review by the Board of Directors.

18. In compliance with the American Veterinary Medical Association's recommendations, as of 6/1/2008, dogs that are fed a raw diet (including BARF diets) are no longer eligible for WMTD registration.

19. In compliance with the State of Michigan Laws, dogs must be Canis lupus familiaris; no wolf-hybrids will be accepted for training or registration purposes. 

20. Dogs that have had previous training in or participate in bite work and/or protection training (i.e. Schutzhund) are excluded from WMTD classes and membership.   

21. Beginning June 1,2008, all members and dogs must go through the Introduction to Pet Therapy Course and pass graduation requirements for membership. Recertification every two years by passing the WMTD Registration test or Pet Partner PPST/PPAT evaluation in addition to volunteering on average one hour per month is required to maintain active membership for handler and dog. Associate membership is available for those who do not have a current dog team member and class participation is not required for this non-voting membership status.

22. Membership calendar is based on a two-year membership. The membership is pro-rated to the even months from when a team initially graduates from the Introduction to Pet Therapy Class series, or when an Associate Member enrolls. For example, a Late Fall team's membership will enroll in December for a two-year membership. An Associate Member sending in their application in the second week of May will have membership through June in two-years. Membership for an adult member with one or more dogs is $50, after the initial prescreen and class fees. Secondary handlers n the same household with one dogs, dues are an additional $20 per two year membership. (A secondary adult handler in the same household with two or more registered dogs is considered an individual member, and membership is $50 for the two-year membership). Junior Handlers aged 10 to 17 are $20 per two-year membership. Junior Handlers must have an adult accompany them through classes and shadowing visits. If aged 10-15 the adult must accompany them to all visits; if 16-17, a parent or guardian can sign for a Junior Handler to volunteer with their dog at approved sites without the supervising adult. Senior Members are active general members aged 55 and older get $10 off a primary membership and $5 a secondary handler membership. Emeritus Members are those members who have been involved with WMTD for at least five (5) years and do not currently have an active dog teammate. Emeritus members do not pay dues. Associate Members are community members who support the mission and purpose of WMTD but do not have an active registered dog. Associate membership dues are $50 for a two-year membership.