A national model for visiting animal team programs, the Pet Hug Pack® is our renowned therapy animal program comprised of teams of qualified pets and their volunteer handlers. Since 2002, hundreds of thousands of children, seniors, Veterans, and others in need have experienced the wet noses and unconditional love of these special dogs and cats.

Aside from regular visits to more than 50 hospitals and care facilities, Pet Hug Pack® animals participate in education programs and outreach events as ARF ambassadors and symbols of unconditional love and compassion. All Pet Hug Pack® animals are evaluated to ensure they are well-mannered, healthy, and of suitable temperament.

Join the Pet Hug Pack®

Is your dog or cat an excellent Pet Hug Pack® candidate? Are you interested in becoming a Pet Hug Pack® volunteer? We’re always looking for well-behaved dogs and cats (and other animals, too) to serve as therapy animals for people in need of the special type of love only an animal can provide.

Pet Hug Pack® Requirements

Basic Animal Requirements

  • Animals must be at least one year old.
  • Animals must be spayed or neutered.
  • Animals may not eliminate indoors during evaluation or on visits.
  • Animals must be comfortable traveling in a car, in new environments, and around groups at events and/or facilities.
  • Animals with ongoing medical conditions may be considered for the program as long as the visits do not aggravate the condition.
    • Animals taking medications such as antibiotics, antifungals or immunosuppressants (steroid and chemotherapy medications) will not be able to participate until treatment is completed.
    • Any significant change in health requires a re-assessment.
  • Animals must be current on vaccinations (listed below).

Dog-Specific Requirements

  • Dogs must be able to walk on a loose leash using accepted equipment (flat collar, martingale collar, or harness and non-retractable leash). No prong, slip chain, or electronic collars are allowed.
  • Dogs should demonstrate good manners when greeting people (e.g. no jumping, pulling, licking, drooling, or body slamming).
  • Dogs must be interested in visiting with new people, not just tolerate them (e.g. dog adores all people and wants to approach every stranger, leans in, or makes eye contact).
  • We encourage positive reinforcement-based techniques. We discourage the use of aversive training and equipment, especially when used to inhibit aggressive, reactive, or rude behaviors.
  • Dogs must demonstrate good basic obedience skills and have passed the American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test within the last two years. In addition to this test, animals should walk on a loose leash, and respond reliably to common commands such as “sit,” “down,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it.”
  • Dogs cannot have a history of aggressive/reactive responses to people or other dogs (growling, biting, or lunging).
  • Dogs may not be working service dogs.
  • Dogs must be current on DHPP and rabies vaccinations and are recommended to be current on bordetella vaccination.

Cat-Specific Requirements

  • Cats must be harness and leash trained.
  • Cats must enjoy visiting with various people in novel environments, not just at home. This includes consistently positive reactions to and soliciting of continued handling and petting.
  • Cats cannot be sensitive to or over-stimulated by touch, or respond to petting with teeth or claws.
  • We encourage positive reinforcement-based training techniques and discourage the use of corrections or aversive equipment, including spray bottles and noisemakers.
  • Cats must be current on FVRCP and rabies vaccinations and are recommended to be current on their FeLV vaccination.

Basic Handler Requirements

  • Handler must be at least 18 years old.
  • Animals must have been in the handler’s home for a minimum of six months.
  • Handlers must be able to identify their animals signals of stress/discomfort (know when they are fatigued, stressed, worried, or overstimulated).
  • Handler must pass live scan fingerprinting.
  • Handler must demonstrate proactive handling, such as cueing or redirecting using a calm voice and encouraging and reassuring animal as needed.
    • Good leash handling- does not get pulled by dog or drop the leash at any time.
  • Handler must advocate for the safety and well-being of their animal at all times.

Request the Pet Hug Pack®

Invite the Pet Hug Pack® to visit your facility for 30-60 minutes of casual animal interaction. This service is provided free of charge. Please submit a therapy animal request to begin.

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