therapy teams getting ready to visitVolunteering for Pets on Wheels can be one of the most rewarding things you have ever done. Our volunteers make an important difference in people’s lives, and in the lives of their pets.

While most people choose to become part of our volunteer therapy teams with their pet, many others who don’t have an animal companion still volunteer their time and talents. If you don’t currently have a pet suitable for therapy work, we invite you to join us by contacting us at info@petsonwheels.org . Our Volunteers Without Pets help with events, administration, fundraising, screenings and more and are equally important to our organization!

If you do have a friendly pet and want to volunteer, start by filling out our volunteer application If you’re not sure if your pet is a good therapy candidate, these questions may help:

  • Is your pet friendly with other pets?
  • Is your pet at least one year old?
  • Have you had your pet for at least 6 months?

If the answers are YES, please do apply to join us! Once you have submitted an application, you may login to the current volunteer section with your information.

A note about minors: Our insurance regulations do not allow anyone under age 18 to be the primary handler for our therapy teams. Individual facilities and events may welcome minors to visit along with an adult handler, however. If you want younger family member to become involved, you will need to clear that with your chosen facility and fill out a Minor Release Form and send it to your local coordinator first.

Once you have applied, here are the next steps:

After you have applied, you will need to submit your pet’s Health Certificate, which can be found here.

As required by the Maryland State Health Department, your vet must fully complete a Pet Health Certificate to certify that your pet is up to date on all vaccinations, and is healthy. Please note that for new applicants, the fecal test must have been pulled within the last 8 weeks. A copy of the Health Certificate will be retained in your Pets on Wheels file. You will need to give another copy to each facility that you visit. We recommend keeping a copy with you when you visit as well.

It is imperative that this is completed annually. This is a condition of Pets on Wheels membership and the continuance of pet therapy visits, as well as attending Pets on Wheels events with your pet.

Non-compliance with this policy will put yourself, the facility, and Pets on Wheels at risk. If something unexpected happened involving your pet, you would not be covered by insurance if this information is not kept current. We will send you several automatic email reminders when your next Health Certificate is due to make sure you have time to see your vet, so please be sure to verify your current email address on file regularly.

Our current policy on vaccinations states that rabies and distemper are required for all dogs and cats. We will accept the one or three year rabies vaccination and we will also accept one or three year distemper (if approved by the veterinarian).

Leptospirosis and parainfluenza vaccinations are to be given at the discretion of the veterinarian.

If there is a medical condition or other reason determined by your veterinarian, we can accept annual titers for distemper with a letter from your veterinarian stating why the titers were run and that he or she accepts responsibility for their accuracy.

We cannot accept titers for rabies.

We also require a yearly fecal test. For new applicants, the fecal test must be dated within 8 weeks of submission of the health certificate. The results must be negative. If the pet tests positive, before a health certificate will be accepted, proof of a negative fecal test is required.

Requirements For Other Species

Since we accept other species of friendly pets, we will determine health certificate requirements as needed for each particular species.

Please email the appropriate coordinator for information. Please see our contact us page to determine the coordinator covering your county.

Once your application and Health Certificate are received, you will be invited to attend a Temperament Screening. The screening is designed to ensure that your pet is appropriate for this type of volunteer work.

At the screening:

You (and any other member of your family who will be visiting with the pet) must attend the screening with your pet.

Please bring your application processing fee in cash or check – some locations have credit card processing available with a $2.50 credit card fee. The current fee is $60 per pet and one volunteer. Additional applicants who will also be visiting with your pet must also register as Pets on Wheels volunteers. There is an additional $15 processing fee for each additional volunteer. This helps to cover our insurance and reporting costs.

Additional pets may be registered as well. The intake processing fee is $15 for each additional pet, and all health certificates must be provided and up to date. Please note, however, that during visits there is a strict one animal per volunteer rule, although our therapy pets may bring more than one human with them to visit.

At the screening, your pet will be assessed for temperament only. While good manners matter, we do not require specific training certifications. We will be testing for reactivity, acceptance of touch, concern for noises and the like, which cannot be trained. Many of our canine volunteers, however, find that training at least through basic obedience is useful, and many find that a CGC title from the AKC is useful.

You will be invited to attend a screening in your region. However, if that is not convenient, you may attend any of our scheduled screenings. We hold screenings at least once a month around the state, and your local coordinator can help you find one that fits your needs. Screenings are by appointment only.

If for some reason your pet does NOT pass our screening, you may try again. Often you may simply need to take some classes to brush up on manners, or allow your pet a bit more time to mature. Our screeners will help advise you on what areas of behavior may need a bit more work before you return.

Your pet will need to be rescreened every two years. There is currently a $30 processing fee for this rescreening.

Once your pet is deemed appropriate for this type of work and passes the temperament testing, we will discuss which facilities are looking for volunteers in the areas that you prefer. We do require that you and your pet volunteer at least one hour per month at your chosen facility or at an event, to remain a current therapy team volunteer.

We have an expansive list of facilities that are requesting visits, but if you have a facility in mind that isn’t registered with Pets on Wheels yet, let us know and we will try to make that happen.

Making Your Visits

Once you choose a facility, you will contact the Facility Coordinator and arrange a tour/visit. The Facility Coordinator will advise you of any special Facility requirements/orientation you may need to fulfill prior to visiting with your pet, and will advise you if you should bring your pet for that first visit.

When visiting a facility, you must always wear your ID card on a Pets on Wheels lanyard. Your pet must always wear the Pets on Wheels pet tag, although you may begin visiting before your pet tag is received. Please bring a copy of your current health certificate with you – some volunteers keep a copy on their phone for convenience.

Please do not take photographs of residents at any facility without written consent from the facility, the resident or the residents’ Power of Attorney. You can print out a blank copy of our photograph consent form online.

If you are visiting a facility and an incident occurs, it is your responsibility to contact the Facility Coordinator or Director of Nursing and also contact the Pets on Wheels coordinator immediately. Communication is essential in a situation where there is a bite, scratch or any other disturbing incident.

Changing Facilities

Sometimes, a facility isn’t the right fit for you or your pet. If that happens, please contact your local coordinator right away. Our goal is to always make sure your visits are a positive experience for your pet, you and the people you meet.

If, for any reason, you feel the need to change facilities, we will find a new facility. If a facility just isn’t a good fit for you or your pet, do not hesitate to immediately contact us. Also, if you find yourself with some free time and would like to visit another facility (or two), let us know and we will work with you to find another suitable facility.

Recording Your Visits

You are required to record all of your visits in your online Pets on Wheels account as soon as the visits are completed and prior to the 6th of the following month. This information is vital to us for insurance reasons and also helps us in required reporting.

Volunteers who spend 100 hours or more visiting facilities and events each calendar year are also eligible to receive special recognition at our Volunteer Appreciation Events, so properly recording your information is important. If you have problems logging your information, please contact your local coordinator.

If any of your contact information changes, please update your online account ASAP so we can contact you.

We reserve the right to terminate a volunteer under any circumstance where the volunteer does not have the best interest of Pets on Wheels in mind or is not following protocol.

And lastly, if you can no longer volunteer with Pets on Wheels, please contact us so we can archive your file. If you are comfortable saying so, we would appreciate knowing why you can no longer volunteer. We do ask that you return the ID card and pet tag to your local coordinator. However, if you wish to keep them as a memento of a pet who has passed, please let your coordinator know.