Please read our volunteer guidelines and regulations; these are important to know before joining our organization to ensure you and your dog will be happy and successful. Many of these guidelines and rules are in place due to our insurance policy and were created with the safety and well-being of our volunteers, their dogs, and the communities we serve in mind.
Dog and handler teams must...
- Meet all the certification requirements, go through the Introduction to Pet Therapy Classes, pass our graduation requirements, and follow all rules and regulations of the organization and each facility they visit at.
- The Board of Directors may ask the handler and dog to temporarily or permanently refrain from WMTD visits if rules are not followed.
- Requests for exemptions to our Membership Guidelines must be submitted in writing to our Director of Membership for review by the Board of Directors.
- Consist of one dog and one handler; those between 10 and 17 years old, Junior Handlers, must be accompanied by a parent or guardian while participating in activities or visits.
- The adult who will volunteer with the Junior Handler on volunteer visits must accompany Junior Handlers through all class sessions and shadow visits.
- Meet the general membership and health requirements to participate in therapy visits wearing WMTD bandanas, vests, or apparel with the WMTD logo.
- “Therapy Dog in Training” bandanas are available for use while completing the initial, supervised shadow visits required to become a certified team. They may be worn during socialization training out the community. WMTD logoed vests or bandanas are only to be worn during official WMTD visits, events, and activities by certified teams
Grooming and Vaccine Requirements
- Dogs must be clean, well-groomed, and parasite-free. Grooming includes clean teeth and ears and trimmed filed toenails.
- Dogs must have a current Rabies, Distemper, and Parvovirus vaccine. We highly recommend that dogs be current on Canine Influenza Virus and Leptospirosis vaccines.
- Dogs must receive the Bordetella vaccine (injection, oral, or nasal) 6 months before taking our Introduction to Pet Therapy classes.After you've graduated class, we then only recommend you continue to keep your dog current on the Bordetella vaccination.
- Teams must wait five days before visiting programs if they receive any form of the Bordetella vaccine (oral, nasal, or injectable).
- Prescreened dogs who will be continuing to our training course must have a Bordatella vaccine within 6 months of the first day of class.
- Female dogs must not be in heat when participating in therapy visits or club events.
- Titers are accepted though some partnering facilities may not accept Titers in lieu of vaccines.
- Dogs must have a negative fecal test before the prescreening test and annually for active members.
Dogs not eligible to be a West Michigan Therapy Dogs
- Dogs that are fed a raw diet (including BARF diets)
- Dogs that have had previous training in or participate in bite work and/or protection training
- Dogs that are wolf hybrids, in compliance with the State of Michigan Laws
- Dogs that are under 1 year old, or those who have been owned by or housed with the handler for less than 6 months
- Dogs that are active service dogs
- Dogs that are not well socialized with other dogs
- Dogs who are food aggressive
- Handlers must be clean, well-groomed, and comply with the facility dress code or WMTD Handler Dress Code Guidelines.
- Use a maximum of a 6-foot leash on their dog during therapy visits.
- Flexi and chain leashes/collars are not allowed. Quick-release, snap, limited-snap (martingale) or buckle dog collars; body step-in harness' or head halters are accepted. The same equipment used on dogs during certification tests must be used during therapy visits. 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 collars, or "no-pull" harness other than those specified above are not allowed in the therapy environment.
- Immediately contact the facility's supervisor on duty, document the incident on all required forms for the facility, and contact the Director of Programs to complete the WMTD incident reporting process if an incident occurs during a visit causing injury to an employee, resident, or attendee in the facility.
- That dogs receive the Lepto vaccination
- That dogs receive regular flea/tick treatments.
- Dogs who wear flea/tick collars must have them removed at least 50 hours before a visit and a full bath at least 24 - 48 hours before a visit.
- Dogs given topical flea/tick treatments must wait at least 24 hours following a treatment to visit.
- That handlers give their certified dogs an annual heartworm test and have their dog on preventative medication.
- Using a leash with a traffic handle, particularly for large dogs, due to liability concerns.
Membership & Renewals
- Teams that are members of other therapy animal organizations that allow dual registration is eligible for our membership
- Associate membership is available for those who do not have a current dog team member.
- Membership and renewals are offered on a two-year basis. Teams must recertify every two years by passing the registration test and volunteer on an average of one hour per month.
- Membership for an adult member with one or more dogs is $50 for a 2-year membership. An additional $20 fee is required for a secondary handler in households with one dog.
- Households with more than one handler and more than one dog are enrolled as individual members.
- Junior Handlers aged 10 to 17 are $20 per two-year membership.
- Senior Members are active general members aged 55 and older and receive a $10 discount off a primary membership and $5 off a secondary handler membership
- Note - Prices are subject to change!