Pet Therapy at Denver Health

The Denver Health Pet Therapy program was started in 2010 with the mission of providing our patients, families, visitors and staff added comfort and companionship. Studies on pet therapy have shown visits with therapy animals can reduce stress, anxiety and pain, lower blood pressure, decrease the feelings of isolation and encourage communication. Our program currently offers visits with therapy dogs and miniature horses and is staffed by our dedicated volunteers and their pets.


Requirements to volunteer in our Pet Therapy program:

Step One:

Fill out a formal application

Step Two:

Once your application is submitted, you will be sent instructions to complete a virtual meet-and-greet interview. After your interview, information on how to complete the following steps will be provided.

Step Three:

Visit our COSH Medical Center for a medical screening to ensure your immunizations are up-to-date. Volunteers must have the following vaccines:

  • 2 Doses of MMR and Varicella
  • Hepatitis B AntibodyT
  • Tdap within the past 10 years
  • Seasonal Influenza Vaccine
  • Complete a TB test

If you do not have your immunization records or are missing immunizations, COSH will provide titer tests and assist you in fulfilling the required immunizations.

Step Four:

Complete the mandatory online training modules, review the Denver Health Volunteer Handbook & Pet Therapy policy, and sign the necessary forms.

Step Five:

Complete a background check (All volunteers must have a social security number to complete this step.) * If you are under 18, you will skip this step.

Step Six:

Once steps 1-5 are complete, you will be scheduled for an in-person tour at Denver Health where you will receive your badge & volunteer uniform shirt.

Step Seven:

Our new Pet Therapy teams shadow one of our Volunteer Pet Therapy Leads for at least one shift to learn in a one-on-one setting and to have their pet cleared to be in our space.

Your dog must be registered with one of the following organizations and maintain their registration yearly:

  • Alliance of Therapy Dogs >
  • Pet Partners >

In addition, your dog will need to have up-to-date vaccinations and an Annual Health Record from their veterinarian. The required immunizations are:

  • Rabies
  • Parvovirus (CPV)
  • Canine adenovirus-2 (CAV-2) for canine hepatitis
  • Parainfluenza (CPiV)
  • Distemper (CDV)
  • Bordetella brochioseptica
  • In certain circumstances: Leptospira, if your dog is exposed to drinking from rivers, lakes or streams or roams on rural properties where they could be exposed to infected wildlife, contaminated water sources or farm animals
  • Fecal testing is required annually. Dogs must be on a heartworm prophylaxis program.



Does my dog have to be a registered therapy dog?

Yes, because of the nature of working in a hospital setting, Denver Health requires Pet Therapy volunteers to be certified by a 3rd party National Organization like Pet Partners or the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. You may submit your volunteer application while your certification is in process but will not be able to volunteer until the certification is complete and you have completed all of the volunteer onboarding steps.

What traits make a dog a good candidate for pet therapy?

While you can find many resources on Pet Partners or the Alliance of Therapy Dogs websites, some basic qualities that are looked for are:

  • A dog that is at least one year old and has been owned by their handler for at least six months.
  • A dog that is calm and not easily distracted.
  • A dog that easily listens to their handler and knows basic commands.
  • A dog that is comfortable being pet by a variety of people in a variety of settings.
  • A dog that can walk loosely on a lead without pulling.
  • A dog that does not jump on people when interacting.
  • A dog that does not mind strong smells or strange noises.
  • A dog that is clean and well groomed at all times.

For more information, please visit one of the above certifying agencies.

I had to get a background check for my certification, do I still need to get a background check for Denver Health?

Yes, Denver Health requires a background check specific to DH for all volunteers. The background check will be completed free of charge for all volunteers and will be sent to you as you complete the required steps for onboarding.

Are there any fees associated with applying or volunteering at Denver Health?

There is a one time charge of $20 for the Pet Therapy polo that is a required part of the uniform for all Denver Health Pet Therapy volunteers.