Setting Pups Up for Success: The Alliance of Therapy Dogs

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: December 20, 2023

The Alliance of Therapy Dogs is a non-profit organization that certifies dogs as therapy animals. Today, more and more medical professionals are seeing the importance of animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and animal-assisted activities (AAA) on people’s health and state of mind.

So, if you’d like to join the movement and learn more about animal therapy through the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, then read on.

What Is the Alliance of Therapy Dogs?

Our canine companions have long been by our side comforting us in times of need. Today many medical institutions recognize the impact animal therapy can have on a person’s well-being.

Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD) is a company that acknowledges animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activities and has made it their mission to register and test therapy animals, as well as support volunteers that work with the company.

The Goals of Dog Organizations Such As ATD

The Alliance of Therapy Dogs has a simple mission statement—therapy dogs are about sharing smiles and joy!

The Alliance of Therapy Dogs is a non-profit organization whose main goal to provide the best therapy dogs for people in hospitals, hospice, nursing homes, schools, and libraries.

This organization does not just certify dogs, rather they seek to educate people about the importance of animal therapy. The ATD also cares deeply about pets and handlers alike. As such, they provide insurance cover for members and volunteers as well as ensure all their therapy dogs are in good health.

Another important factor is that they have a high standard. Therapy dogs interact with the public and often with fragile people. ATD makes sure that therapy dogs receive the training they need before being sent out into the world to spread joy!

Animals Are Healing Rockstars! How ESAs and Therapy Animals Help Those in Need   

Just like service dogs or therapy dogs, emotional support animals (ESAs) are rockstars when it comes to comforting their handler.

Emotional support animals can help alleviate loneliness, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks in people who have a mental illness. ESAs don’t just act as a shoulder to cry on; they can also provide comfort and security to those in need.

Therapy dogs are also heroes in their way! When visiting a nursing home, children’s hospital, or hospice; a therapy dog brings joy, happiness, and friendship to people who may not be in the best of health.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) vs Therapy Animals: What’s the Difference? 

The distinction between therapy dogs and emotional support animals can be quite confusing. Therapy dogs are animals who provide comfort to large groups of people. For example, an owner with a registered therapy dog may choose to bring their dog to a hospice, a children’s hospital, or even a nursing home.

As such as, a therapy animal provides comfort, happiness, and security to a large group of people as opposed to their owners only. Also, the  Alliance of Therapy Dogs requires therapy animals to undergo testing, and the testing procedure is crucial as it will determine if a pet is a good candidate for a therapy animal or not.

In contrast to therapy dogs, an emotional support animal can be any animal—dog, cat” href=”” data-wpil-keyword-link=”linked”>cat, bird, or even miniature ponies— that provide emotional comfort to their owners. Emotional support animals are not like therapy dogs as they do not require registration or certification.

So, to qualify for an ESA the owner needs to be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) with a mental illness. Once diagnosed, an owner can ask their mental health professional for an ESA letter.

If you’re thinking about getting an emotional support animal, then the first thing you will need is an ESA letter. Fortunately, CertaPet has made getting an ESA letter as easy as possible. Just take our 5-minute pre-screening questionnaire to see if you qualify for an emotional support animal.

ATD’s Therapy Dog Requirements!

Do you think your four-legged friend would make a great therapy animal?

The Alliance of Therapy Dogs states that any dog can become a therapy animal. There are no breed or sex discriminations!

The only requirements are:

  • A therapy dog has to be at least 1 year old.
  • The dog has to in good health.
  • A therapy dog must have a friendly demeanor and should listen to their owner.
  • The owner must have full control of their dog.
  • Therapy animals are not allowed to be on a raw food diet.

The Alliance of Therapy Dogs loves and appreciates all dogs! But, unfortunately, due to insurance purposes, ATD cannot certify wolf-hybrids, coyote hybrids, or any type of wild canine as a therapy animal

The ATD Enrollment Process Explained! 

Do you think your four-legged friend is a good fit to become a therapy dog?

Alliance of Therapy Dogs accepts new members into their program all the time. And, the enrollment process is not as difficult as one might think.

When you choose to join the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, then the first thing they will require is a background check. As this is a volunteer-based organization, the ATD needs to ensure that all members of their team are not only trustworthy but also reliable.

Verified volunteers of Alliance of Therapy Dogs will do the background check on any member wishing to join the team. Now, there is a cost! A background check will cost you $17 in total. However, this cost helps ensure that the premium insurance provided to volunteers is kept as low as possible.

Step Two of ATD’s Enrollment Process

The second step for pet parents looking to enroll their pet is to undergo an ATD test. As we mentioned earlier, a therapy dog does need to be tested to get certified and registered as a therapy animal. Once you have passed the background check, then the organization will send you a letter or email confirming a pass. After receiving a confirmation email, you can contact Alliance of Therapy Dogs to arrange for a tester/observer screening test.

If your examiner passes you and your pet, then this means your pooch is not too far of from becoming a certified hero pup!

After passing the test/observer examination, you must download a membership application directly from the organizations’ website. It is imperative that new members read the policies, rules, and mission statement of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Towards the end of the membership package, you will see a membership application.

Prior to filling out and sending your membership application, you will need to provide documents such as:

  • A completed health verification form or proof of your dogs’ current rabies vaccination.
  • Proof of annual veterinary wellness exam within 12 months.
  • Proof that your pet’s fecal egg count is negative.
  • You must also provide the completed ATD test results and the complete membership application.
  • Any fees.
  • The signed Rules Review Form.

Our Beloved Animal Allies: Can Any Animals Get Involved in Pet Therapy?

Maybe you don’t have a dog—perhaps you’re a cat person, so can you make your cat a therapy animal?

The Alliance of Therapy dogs is specific only to certify and register dogs as therapy animals. However, that does not mean that your sweet Maine Coon cat cannot make a great therapy animal!

There are indeed many organizations that can provide registration to people interested in making their feline friend a therapy cat. Pet Partners is one such company who not only certifies cats as therapy animals, but also rabbits, birds, and more!

Any Animal Can Become an ESA! 

Nearly any pet can become an ESA, but not all pets can become a therapy animal.

Now, an emotional support animal is more typically going to be a domesticated animal.  For example, dogs and cats are the most common ESAs in the United States.

However, people can also choose to make a pig, a miniature horse, pet birds, or even their pet rat an emotional support animal.

Like Therapy Dogs International, ATD is on the AKC Registration List! 

Considered one of the oldest purebred dog registries, the American Kennel Club, AKC, is an organization that recognizes over 145 dog breeds.

The American Kennel Club not only provides expert advice on dog care, but they are also great supporters of animal therapy. To date, the American Kennel Club has proudly recognized Alliance of Therapy Dogs for their work in supporting and certifying therapy dogs across the United States of America.

Dog Therapy Only? What Other Therapy Pets are Allowed? 

The Alliance of Therapy Dogs currently only certifies dogs as therapy animals. Nevertheless, there are many other organizations who will certify other pets as therapy animals.

With that being said, there are many different types of therapy animals you may come across, these include:

  • Dogs: For their sweet and charming personalities.
  • Cats: For their cuddly nature.
  • Rabbits: For their calming and laid back demeanor.
  • Pigs: For their curious and caring nature.

The Best Way to Get in Touch With ATD 

Do you still have some burning questions about therapy dogs? Make sure you get in touch with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs for any queries!

  • Phone number: 307-843-0272
  • Email address:

So, do you think your lovely Goldendoodle would make a great therapy dog? If the answer is yes, then what are you waiting for!

Common Questions on the Alliance of Therapy Dogs

What is a Therapy Dog?

What are the Requirements to Certify a Therapy Dog?

Are Emotional Support Animals the Same as Therapy Dogs?

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