A Variety of Volunteers: Atlanta Pet Partners

Volunteering allows people to give back and enrich others’ lives. But why stop there? Volunteering doesn’t have to just be for people, four legged friends can often provide the most empathetic and encouraging visits.


Atlanta Pet Partners believes in the power of animal therapy teams and enables individuals to train them-selves and their animals to become national registered animal-assisted therapy teams.


Team Evaluations are held monthly in Tucker at Mister Migs. Mister Migs has been providing fashionable eco-friendly dog clothes and accessories for years, but recently moved to the business park on Flintstone Drive this summer. During evaluations, pets must demonstrate that they are reliable, predictable and controllable. They need to be Atlanta Pet Partner ambassadors in every situation, ranging from wheelchairs to over-zealous children.


There are two categories for furry volunteers: animal assisted activity and animal assisted therapy visitations. While all pet partners must exhibit compassionate companionship, therapy visitations are a special responsibility given to a dog who has demonstrated a caring character through many visitations and have passed certain team evaluations.


Gail Vasiloff has been on the board of Atlanta Pet Partners for over four years. She said there are over 50 teams all over the Atlanta area. While most teams are with dogs, there are two unique teams- one team has a guinea pig and the other showcases a miniature horse. With the success of these species, cat-lover Vasiloff is holding out hope that more cats can become therapy volunteers. “There is a tremendous need for therapy animals. While cats are not as popular, there is a need for them to start teams as many people respond well to cats,” Vasiloff said.


Those interested in training their pet, including cats, must identify key characteristics. Atlanta Pet Partner sug-gests gauging if your pet enjoys interaction and grooming, they are calm around other animals and if they are confi-dent in new environments. Once the nurturing spirit has been identified, a vet must perform a control evaluation, provide rabies vaccination and the team must attend a training course and schedule supervised visits to a facility.


On your next walk, consider taking your dog to an assisted living home or hospital. You may just find that you aren’t walking the dog, but he is walking you into service.


–Grace Simmons

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