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About the AAT Program

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What is the Animal Assisted Therapy Program (AAT)?


The Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) program uses volunteers and their companion animals to provide social therapy to comfort children and adults with special needs or those experiencing life’s stresses.  The benefit of using pets is that animals, in general, and companion animals more commonly, are regarded by many as “man’s best friend.”  Animals provide people with unconditional love and non-judgmental acceptance and companionship.  They serve as catalysts for social interaction and as bridges to interpersonal communication and attachment.  It’s no wonder people love their pets so much!

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What does the AAT Program Do?

When our program was first established, it served the elderly residents of nursing homes in Broward County.  Today, our program is well known in Broward, Dade and Palm Beach counties and we have expanded to help the abused, neglected, physically and mentally ill people of all ages and genders.  Our program includes teams that visit over 100 facilities such as senior retirement homes, hospitals, hospice, mental health facilities, children’s facilities, foster homes and group homes along with Broward County Public Schools, Broward County Public Libraries, Broward County Private Schools and Private Libraries.

Why Animal Assisted Therapy?

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AAT Program Criteria

For Handlers:

  • Handlers must be 18 years or older
  • Handlers must have owned their animal for a minimum of 6 months
  • Handlers must be able to read their animal’s particular stress signals
  • Handlers must be able to anticipate their animal’s responses, behavior and body language
  • Handlers must advocate for the safety and well-being of their animal at all times
  • Handlers must be able to communicate with their animal in a positive way, that does not include any kind of negative punishment
  • Handlers must represent themselves in a professional manner at all times while representing the Humane Society of Broward County

For Animals:

  • Animals must be one year or older to participate
  • Animals must be spayed or neutered
  • Animals must be current on all required vaccinations and tests
  • Animals must be non-aggressive in all situations towards humans and other animals
  • Animals must be interested in people and children
  • Animals must be well-behaved and know their basic obedience cues, this includes but is not limited to sit, down, stay, come, leave it and heel (walking on a loose leash)
  • Animals should have no history of aggression, including lunging, biting, growling, or seriously injuring either a person, child or another animal

Eligible Species:

There are lots of animals that make wonderful therapy animals and can form a strong human-animal bond.  Currently, we accept the following animals in our AAT Program:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Birds
  • Ferrets
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Rabbits
  • Horses
  • Donkeys
  • Pot-bellied Pigs
  • How to Become an Animal Assisted Therapy Team (AAT)

    • Attend the Humane Society of Broward County’s Volunteer Orientation. Volunteer Orientation is scheduled through our Volunteer Services Department at 954.266.6814.
    • Once you have completed the Volunteer Orientation, you will be required to attend a 2 ½ hour AAT class without your animal.  This class will teach you all about our Animal Assisted Therapy Program and what skill requirements both you and your animal must possess in order to be considered for our program. After the AAT course is completed, you and your animal might require further training.  Training is determined by the type of program you and your animal will be participating in, and what skill sets you and your animal have or need to have in order to participate.  The Manager of the AAT program will decide if you and your animal require further training before being evaluated for the program.
    •  If further training is not required, you will be scheduled for your evaluation. The meeting, inclusive of the evaluation will take approximately 1 ½ hours. Evaluations are conducted at various locations in Broward County. Volunteers will need to provide a copy of their animal’s updated veterinarian records showing all vaccinations were administered at the time of the evaluation.
    • If you have multiple pets the requirement is one pet per handler.  You may have multiple pets evaluated and if they pass you will be required to only bring one pet per visit.  You may rotate your pets as necessary.  If you have multiple pets and more than one handler, each pet and handler may be evaluated separately for the program.
    • Currently, our Certification fee for this program is $100.00 and our two year Membership renewal is $75.00 per team. The Certification fee covers the cost for the materials and equipment you will need to volunteer in this program. The program fees are non-refundable. You will be required to complete an authorization form allowing the HSBC to perform a multi-state criminal background check.

    If you are interested in joining our AAT program, please contact the Humane Society directly at 954.266.6814 or email us at therapy@hsbroward.com.

    The Humane Society of Broward County is proud to be a Purina Shelter Champions Partner.


    The Humane Society of Broward County provides shelter, aid and responsible adoptions
    to animals entrusted to our care, and educates the community about respect and kindness to all animals.

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