Intermountain Therapy Animals (www.therapyanimals.org) is a 24-year-old animal-assisted therapy program based in Salt Lake City, Utah, with affiliate programs throughout the United States and chapters in the Rocky Mountains, including Bozeman and Helena, Montana. ITA provides handler training, extensive handler support, registration, and liability insurance. Eligible pets include dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and other domestic animals.
Here are the steps involved in joining ITA as a volunteer pet/handler team.
- Pre-screening Interview. This free 20-minute interview, attended by you and your pet, is a prerequisite for joining ITA. Pre-screens are conducted by ITA evaluator Adele Delp.
- ITA workshop. This all-day workshop (9 AM to 5 PM) is for people without their pets. It covers the basics of animal-assisted therapy and includes a live demonstration of the ITA screening/evaluation. The fee is $110, which includes the ITA manual and lunch. Classes are taught by ITA trainer CJ Puotinen. If two people in the same household take the class and share a manual, the fee for the second person is $55.
- ITA team screening / evaluation. Pet/handler teams are tested individually in half-hour appointments for appropriate skills and temperament, the strength of the pet/handler relationship, social interaction with clients, and the handlers’ ability to advocate for their animals. The cost for the first test is $40, and $30 for each additional animal in the same household.
- Veterinary health / medical screening. After passing the team screening, your animal will be screened by your veterinarian. We provide forms for this purpose as part of the registration package. The cost is up to your vet. Some will give a discount for therapy animal candidates — it doesn’t hurt to ask!
- Complete your application. After you and your partner pass the screening, you will complete an open-book test on the workshop material along with the vet health screening for your animal, then submit your complete registration package to ITA headquarters within 90 days of your workshop attendance. The cost for first-year Intermountain Therapy Animals (ITA) membership is $75 and includes your liability insurance, ITA uniform shirt, scarf, orientation workshop, initial on-the-job mentoring, training, training manual, ongoing mentoring, periodic member bulletins and newsletters, ongoing access to training and education, and the opportunity to participate in animal-assisted programs at facilities served by ITA. Membership dues in succeeding years range from $45-$75 annually, depending on your extent of service.
- Attend Volunteer Orientation. The next step is to attend a four-hour orientation workshop, which is for you and your partner together. You will learn common procedures for working around wheelchairs, walkers, and other equipment, mounting chairs, being around food (we feed you lunch), and interacting with other teams. You must attend an orientation workshop within 4.5 months of your training workshop or you will need to begin again with Step 2. Volunteers are encouraged to attend orientation workshops annually or whenever they are offered because they provide special training opportunities and bring all of our pet/handler teams together.
- Beginning visits. Congratulations! You are now ready to begin visiting. First you will make observation visits, where you explore facilities without your pet and watch other teams in action to get a better idea of what you and your partner may enjoy most. Then you will visit with your partner and an ITA mentor, who will accompany you until you feel confident enough to go on your own. Once you have completed these steps, you will be an authorized, licensed, insured ITA volunteer team. Your license will remain valid as long as you:
1) pay your annual membership dues to maintain your liability insurance, and
2) repeat the team screening at two-year intervals.
Review of fee schedule:
- Prescreen: Free (no fee)
- Workshop: $110 ($165 for two people in same household)
- Evaluation/Test: $40 ($30 for each additional pet)
- ITA Volunteer Membership Application: $75
- Volunteer Orientation Worksho: Free (no fee)
- Annual ITA Renewal Fee: $45 to $75 (depends on extent of service)
For our next series of screenings and training events, check our Events page.