Frequently Asked Questions
Heart to Heart Pet Partners, Inc.
Offering unconditional love, caring and comfort
What is Heart to Heart?
Heart to Heart is a 501(c)(3) organization that trains and supports owners and therapy animals to provide therapeutic visits to approved facilities. Our therapy teams offer unconditional love, caring, and comfort.
What are the advantages of becoming part of a group rather than working as a ‘free agent?”
Assurance that the facility you visit is safe and appropriate for you and your therapy partner
24-hour support from other handlers
Current information on Pet Partners requirements for registered teams to maintain insurance coverage
Additional insurance coverage through Heart to Heart
Continuing education re: infection control, safety on visits, responding to ‘awkward’ situations, grooming and health updates, dealing with the death of a client, etc.
An appropriate, “safe” place to share experiences of visits with other therapy animal handlers
Where do Heart to Heart teams provide therapy visits?
We currently have two therapy teams visiting patients at Huntsville Hospital Main and one team at the Madison facility. Teams visit Regency Rehabilitation Village, Elk River Health & Rehabilitation Center of Ardmore, and Heritage Assisted Living & Memory Care. We have teams in the “Read with MeTM” programs at Huntsville Inner City Learning Center, Madison County Elementary School, and Blanche Elementary School in Taft, Tennessee. A Heart to Heart team offers the ‘Write with Me’ program at Madison County Elementary School and a team will soon begin visits at Magnolia Trace Residential Community. We assess and accept additional facilities to meet the needs of our handlers and the facility. If you have an idea about a setting you’d like to visit, please let us know.
Do you have to have a therapy animal to be part of Heart to Heart’s work?
Not at all. Volunteers are needed to help with team training and evaluations and at community events. We welcome non-handlers to help in our “Read with Me TM” and “Write with Me” programs to walk children to and from their special time with the therapy animal.
What are team requirements?
Handler: 18 years of age
Dog: At least two years old and have been in the handler’s home for at least one year.
Spayed or neutered or have earned the AKC title of Conformation Champion Team: Completed at least two group obedience classes beyond Puppy level and approved for the Skills One and Skills Two Classes at Island Dog Training Center.
Other species (cats, birds, rabbits) In the handler’s home for at least one year.
What are the initial costs?
Registration for the Skills One and Skills Two classes is $150 for each seven-week session.
There is no application fee for Heart to Heart and no fee for the Pet Partners Handler Workshop.
When accepted into Heart to Heart, there is a $45 fee for Heart to Heart annual dues that is paid after the Pet Partners Team Evaluation and then in January for the following years. Pet Partners registration is $50 for handlers age 55 and over and $95 for those younger than age 55.
Heart to Heart provides uniforms for each graduating team.
Handler: Short and long-sleeved shirts and a fleece jacket and fanny pack, all monogrammed
with the Heart to Heart logo.
Therapy animal: vest monogrammed with logo and a scarf monogrammed with
the Heart to Heart logo and the animal’s name.
Are there additional costs?
Handler: $45 annual dues to Heart to Heart
Team: Renewing team registration with Pet Partners every two years: $50 for handlers
Uniform: Khaki trousers or skirt, shirt with a collar, shoes with a closed toe & closed heel
Appropriate equipment for therapy animal (harness or collar and 4’ leash)
What does the 12-week Training Program include?
Assignment of a “Training Buddy” who will be available throughout the training classes and for your
first year to answer questions, offer suggestions and support, and be your ‘go to’ person.
Three In-services: (#1 and #2 are all day, usually on a Saturday. #3 is 1 to 1½ hours on a Sunday.)
#1: Pet Partners Handler Workshop: Preparation for their online assessment. Taught by an experienced Heart to Heart handler who is a registered Pet Partners Instructor
#2: Heart to Heart Policies and Procedures
HIPAA requirements for Confidentiality
Needs of Specific Populations (i.e., children, elders, patients with dementia, etc.)
Anatomy of a Visit: How to Begin, Conduct and End a Visit
Active Listening Skills
Understanding Dog Behavior: How to read and respond to your partner’s stress signals
#3: Review of skills
‘Shadow’ two experienced therapy teams and review your observations with your Training Buddy.
Pet Partners Team Evaluation: administered by an experienced Heart to Heart handler who is a
registered Pet Partners Evaluator.
Go with your partner to three Heart to Heart Training sites (Bridge Street, Lowe Mill & Senior Center).
Will be accompanied by Team Assessment Evaluator, Volunteer Coordinator, and a Board
Go with a member of the Board of Directors to your assigned facility to meet staff and review facility policy.
Make at least two supervised visits to your assigned facility.
How is it decided where my partner and I will visit?
This is decided over the course of the training program. There are ongoing conversations between the intern and Heart to Heart staff to be sure each team is assigned to a facility and with a population that the handler and partner would enjoy visiting.
What are the time requirements for a working team?
Teams visit their facilities two or three times a month, depending on their facility. Each visit usually lasts 1-1½ hours and is never to be more than 2 hours long. Therapy dogs and equines must be bathed within 24 hours of each visit. Other therapy animals should be clean and groomed as appropriate for their species.