Volunteer Info.

Info for New Volunteers

          Our volunteers come from all over the greater Houston area, from all different backgrounds. The only common link is we all love our friendly pets, and are willing to give our time and pay our own expenses to bring smiles to strangers.
          (It is good to note here that everyone involved with Smiles and Fur Friends are volunteers. No one in any capacity gets paid. All provide their own “everything”. Their annual dues cover supplies such as their secondary insurance, ID badges, postage, and some social get-togethers for all volunteers, their spouses and their pets.)
          Once tested and certified, new volunteers can join teams on existing visits, and when there is enough interest, we set up monthly visits to new facilities where our visits have been requested.
         Residents love pets that "dress up" for their visits. Even a cute bandana is nice.

Overview for Volunteers

Our therapy teams truly enjoy every visit, and our pets bring so much joy to the residents of these facilities. If this sounds like something you might enjoy doing with your friendly pet, and if, after certification, you agree to commit to at least one monthly visit at one or more of our participating facilities, we would love to have you and your pet join us.  Be sure you have read this page and our rules before you send us your contact information. Thank you for your interest.

Volunteer Requirements
1.  The application paperwork must be completed for all participating family members (see items listed below). The annual fee covers all certified family members and certified pets.
2.  Secondary liability insurance coverage is provided to our certified volunteers by Smiles and Fur Friends. Each volunteer’s own insurance  (homeowner’s and car) policy is their primary coverage. Volunteers must keep their driver’s license and insurance policies current and on file with us.
3.  There is no minimum age for handlers, but youth handlers (under age 18) must be accompanied by a certified parent/guardian for all activities. Some facilities require all visitors to be over 21. You can ask for the application for youth handlers when you contact us.
4.  All current volunteers must renew annually to continue to participate.
5.  Volunteers must make at least 3 visits to any of our regular facilities (not counting 1-time "fun" visits) to receive your ID badge and no longer be considered Probationary. Let an officer know when these first 3 visits have been completed and where they were. You can then purchase a vest for your pet if you wish. We have a company that makes our vests for our pets at a discount.

 “We do not” info for Prospective volunteers:
What we do NOT do: (listed here because we are too often asked for these things)
•    We do not train therapy pets for any purpose other than visiting with our teams going to our cooperating facilities on our arranged schedules.
•    We do not allow our volunteers to visit with their pet where they are employed, even if our organization visits there (too much conflict of interest if the facility had an emergency). These volunteers are welcome to join us and visit all the other places we go.
•    We do not find homes for pets. (Try PetFinder.com or any rescue group for that pet’s breed.)
•    We do not accept volunteers who do not have email, transportation or insurance.
•    We do not have any volunteer opportunities for people without a pet suitable to participate in our visits. Many animal shelters would love your help, though.
•    We do not participate in any type of service hours for schools, groups, court, etc.
•    We do not accept current service or emotional support animals. "Career-change" pets are OK.
•    We do not train service animals or emotional support animals or pets for use by any individual.

NOTE: Therapy pets get no special privileges. They do not get to live in no-pet housing or go into restaurants or anywhere else a “regular” pet is not allowed. You can print this 2-page description of the 3 types of pet certifications that is posted at http://therapydoginfo.net/servicedogs.pdf.

Our volunteer teams truly enjoy every visit as our pets bring so much joy to the residents and clients we visit. If you would enjoy doing this with your friendly pet, continue reading to the bottom of this page and please contact us. 

Pet Information and Requirements

Most of our certified pets are dogs, but we also welcome cats and rabbits. We do not use reptiles or exotic animals. Pets must be current on all vaccinations and there is a form to have your vet complete. Many of our volunteers have more than one certified pet. Many of our facilities will allow us to bring more than one certified pet (up to 2) on a visit.
1.    The Health Form must be completed and signed by your veterinarian for each pet.
2.    A copy of the current Rabies Vaccination Certificate (RVC) from the vet is also required. This is not the invoice or health history, but issued by the vet giving the rabies vaccination.
3.    Animals must not ever show aggression to humans or to other animals. All animals must be screened and be invited by us to join. Handler and pet are evaluated together. Some pets (and possibly, humans) will not have the temperament appropriate for pet therapy.
4.    Therapy animals are not required to be spayed or neutered. Some are still active show animals. Female animals must not be in estrus during any activity.
5.    Most dogs will have to pass the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen Test (CGC) and/or a Temperament Evaluation for suitability to be a potential therapy dog. The CGC test is authorized and administered through the AKC (American Kennel Club). Cats and rabbits must pass our Temperament Test for suitability to be a potential therapy animal.
6.    We have training classes twice a month in the Kingwood area at this time, and many places, including PetSmart, offer obedience classes and CGC testing. We do the Temperament Testing for all of our volunteers. Pets must be at least 6 months of age to get tested for certification with us.
7.    Our program does not certify pets to be used as part of any business or agency, private activity or care-giving, etc. Our certification does not entitle our volunteers’ pets to "go to work" with their owners for any reason. We never make home or apartment visits. We visit only our pre-arranged facilities on set schedules, usually once a month. Therapy pets are not service animals! They do not "fly free" or get to go in restaurants, or get any special privileges.

Required Supplies

Pet:  Dogs on a 4-foot or shorter leash and regular or martingale collar. Cats with a harness and leash. No flexi-leads. For evaluation, bring cats in a carrier and wearing harness and leash. Chain or choke or shock collars will not be allowed for testing and not ever for visits, since a pet requiring those is not trained well enough for visiting.

Pet supplies:
1.    “JUST IN CASE” bag (small bag, fanny pack or backpack) containing clean-up supplies in case of any “accident”, including zip-loc bags, paper towels, sanitizer/deodorizer. Have this bag of pet supplies with you every time you are anywhere with your pet. Always pick up poop (even if outside) and take it with you and dispose of at home.
2.    Carry a copy of your pet’s current Rabies Vaccination Certificate (RVC) in case a facility wants to make a copy for their records.
3.    Soft pet brush – kids often enjoy brushing a pet or use with physical therapy visits.
4.    Extra leash (short) in case a child wants to “walk” your dog, so you can retain control with the main leash.
5.    Small bowl for water for your pet – you may want to have this in your car with a thermos of water for after a visit.
6.    A towel to use if your pet is ever placed in a client’s lap. It is also useful for wiping a dog’s face after drinking, or wiping spills or drool.
7.    Most pets love treats, and we use only human-grade treats for our pets on visits. Bring what your pet loves. Tiny pieces are best. Treats can be used on visits, but not for the certification testing.

Human supplies:
1. Wear any solid-color collared shirt. Our patches can be sewn or pinned on.
2. Slacks are to be knee-length or longer. Some places will not allow jeans.
3. Skirts are not advised.
4. No open-toed shoes. Rubber-soled shoes are advisable. "Tennies" are best.
5. ID badge - should be worn on all visits once is it received.

Application paperwork:
These items will be sent by email:
 (If scanning is not possible, take a clear pic with any smart phone and email - this works fine.)
1) Application (download from this web site, print, complete, scan and email)
2) Health Form (also from this web site - completed by pet's vet)
3) Copy of car insurance (and re-send whenever updated - to be kept current with us)
4) Copy of driver's license (front) (can be sent on same page as car insurance) (kept current)
5) Rabies Vaccination Certificate (from vet who gave the rabies shot) (not invoice or history)
6) The Photo Release page - completed.
7) Separate pictures of pet and human for ID badges (we can crop, so most pix will work)
8) A dues check for $50 for the current calendar year - payable to Smiles and Fur Friends.
Pay when testing with us (or by mail for some conditions).

NOTE:  This page and the RULES page will give new volunteers the info they are responsible for knowing and following.
There are additional pages listed under MORE on the menu, if you want to browse through more information about our program.
Our APPLICATION and pet HEALTH FORMS are on the Testing Information page under the MORE tab at the top of this page. 

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