About Happy Tails Services
What is a typical Happy Tails visit like?
A Happy Tails visit is generally one hour long, and are highly adaptable to the facility's unique needs. Some teams visit room to room to spend one-on-one time with a patient, or can congregate in an open common area and mingle with groups of people. Besides being pet, therapy animals can be groomed, placed on beds or in laps, walked on an assisted lead, or fetch a ball in a controlled area. We will always respect the space of any patient who does not wish to interact with the animals or has a fear of dogs. We are there to relieve stress, not cause more!
How much does a Happy Tails visit cost?
Happy Tails visits are always 100% free. We rely on donations to keep it that way - so any support you can give is always appreciated.
Do you have animals for adoption or provide an adoption service?
No. Each of our volunteers uses his or her own pet for their pet-assisted therapy work. We do not have any kind of adoption service, placement or shelter available.
What is a Therapy Animal? Is that the same thing as a Service Animal?
Under the American Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person's disability [source]. Therapy animals are not covered by the ADA and are animals used in facilities to comfort people and give affection. Spending time with a therapy animal has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce anxiety and increase endorphins and oxytocin. Therapy dogs do not have to be trained to perform specific tasks like service dogs [source].
Can I have a therapy animal come to my house?
No, Happy Tails does not offer one-on-one visits at residential homes. We work directly with facilities around the Atlanta area.
I'm at the hospital right now! Can Happy Tails come visit me?
Happy Tails visits facilities on a regular and one-time basis, and that is usually coordinated through a request from the facility itself. If we have a regular visit at the hospital while you or someone you know is staying there, we will do our best to coordinate a visit, but we cannot guarantee it.
Can you provide research information regarding pet therapy and its benefits?
There are a great deal of published studies detailing the health benefits of pet therapy. Articles by the Mayo Clinic, Kindred Healthcare and Dogtime.com are great places to start. We are not a research group and do not have any scientific data regarding the effects of our work, just the stories of our success. You can find these under Happy Tales, or you are invited to contact us for further information.
About being a Happy Tails Volunteer
I want to join Happy Tails! Where do I start?
The first step to joining Happy Tails is by attending a mandatory Orientation. You can learn more about becoming a member on our Volunteer page.
What are the required health clearances for animals and their owners?
Happy Tails pets are expected to have basic vaccinations and health exams specific to their species. An annual health update is required. Our veterinary standards are explained at Orientation. We do not currently require our human members to meet any health requirements, but some facilities do have additional health and vaccination requirements.
What animals are allowed for therapy work in Happy Tails?
Membership is only available to dogs, cats, and rabbits that pass our temperament tests. Other animals are not permitted in the medical settings where we work.
Does my dog need special training to be a Therapy Dog?
No. Your dog needs to have passed a “Basic Obedience” course with you and have the temperament to be involved in this type of program. For specific information about our testing process, visit Pet-Handler Evaluation.
Is obedience training provided by Happy Tails?
No, the selection of a trainer is your personal choice. Happy Tails does not recommend certain specific trainers or training facilities.
How is the pet testing different for cats and rabbits?
Cats and rabbits are tested for general demeanor, not responsiveness to commands.
How involved can I become?
As much as you want. Each Happy Tails volunteer decides how many visits he or she can do. Members are encouraged to visit at least once a month and are required to make at least one visit every six months.
Do you have your choice of facility and visiting days/times?
Yes. We try to match you and your pet with the kind of facility you would like to visit, the days and times that you are available and at a location that is convenient for you.
Can children go on visits?
No. All volunteers and visitors must be at least 18 years of age. But children can and do attend many of the Happy Tails events like the Spring Picnic, the Fall Chili Cookoff, and the Atlanta Children’s Healthcare Christmas Parade.
Where are the visits?
Happy Tails visits are located around the metro Atlanta area. You may find that we visit a facility just a few miles away from you live, or you may drive 30 minutes to a facility that best suits you and your pet or has an opening.
How long is a visit and how often do they occur?
Most visits are one hour long. Some are scheduled twice a month, some monthly and a few weekly. However, even if you are interested in a facility that has weekly visits, you may choose to only visit once a month if you prefer.
Can I bring my therapy animal to public places and transportation, such as the grocery store, or on a plane?
No. Therapy animals are not covered by the American Disabilities Act and do not have the same clearances as Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals. Happy Tails animals are granted clearance to public places only when volunteering during a sanctioned Happy Tails visit at an approved facility.