OCSPCA Education and Therapy Dog Program

Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS)

PAWS is a pet assisted therapy program that travels throughout Orange County. Our volunteers and their dogs spend time at nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, hospice and children’s homes to help bring joy and encouragement to the disabled, bedridden and neglected.

Dog and Serviceman We have monthly visits to more than 20 facilities in Orange County including nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, hospice and children’s homes and programs. Our program is an amazing opportunity for you to experience the human-animal bond by sharing your pet, and to touch the lives of these very special people. The rewards are mutual for the handlers, dogs and residents alike. Results are often not miraculous but subtle, simple smiles, warming a room where there was no hope, and delivering warmth and love to those who desperately need it. These small gestures of love and acceptance that only our pets can deliver often are the highlight of their day or even week and the residents eagerly await our monthly return. Through PAWS and the amazing bond created between dog and human,  the effect is undoubtedly positive and healing.

Who can participate in PAWS?

Do you have a special dog that you would like to share? We would love to have you join us! To join our program, you must attend orientation (without your dog), visit a site with team members (without your dog), and successfully complete a day of training and then an evaluation of your dog’s behavior. When you and your dog pass the evaluation, there will be a fee of $40-$55 which includes OCSPCA membership, a program manual, t-shirt(s) and a bandana for your dog.

If you are 18 or over, have a few hours per month to spare on a regular basis, and have a compatible pet, you are a welcome candidate for the PAWS program!

Program participants will complete a multi-step process. Handlers need to attend an orientation and site visit (without your dog), a training day (with your dog), and then pass an evaluation of you and your dog’s ability to be in the program. After passing the testing, the dogs are awarded an AKC Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) certificate and a bandana to match their owner’s PAWS T-shirt.

After successfully passing the evaluation, volunteers will attend a short handling class to prepare them for their visits. They will then complete a four-month probation period working at a facility for adults and a two-month probation at a facility for children. The entire process takes about 8-10 months to complete, and the rewards come in the form of the big smiles from the residents’ and patients’ faces.

When the required probation is completed, volunteer/pet teams become eligible to participate in the PAWS, Kindness Kids and Canine Literacy programs. We look forward to meeting you and working with your dog!

Program and Volunteer Requirements:  You must be at least eighteen years of age, the owner of a program compatible dog, and able to commit to a minimum of one visit per month as well as participate in at least one annual  community/OCSPCA event. You must be willing to comply with OCSPCA/PAWS policies, and volunteers must be an OCSPCA member in good standing.

Dog Requirements: Dogs must be one year of age or older. The owner must have owned the dog for at least 6 months and the dog must be spayed/neutered, housebroken, and proficient in obedience. The dog must have been bathed/groomed within 24 hours of each visit (no fleas, ticks, or other parasites and nails need to be trimmed short),  free of any open sores/wounds or contagious skin conditions, and free from any condition that causes chronic pain and/or discomfort (arthritis, hip/joint issues – sick or injured dogs are not able to participate). The dog must be able to work in stressful and crowded environments, and all dogs must be able to interact with other dogs and enjoy attention from people (no signs of fear, shyness or aggression). Dogs may not bark, jump on people or cause other disruptions, dog treats/toys are prohibited while on a visit as they can become a distraction for other dogs, current  vaccinations required –  Rabies and DHPP (Distemper).

When is the next Orientation for PAWS?

Orientations for potential new OCSPCA PAWS program volunteers are held 3 times each year. The next session will take place in February of 2018, as our Fall 2017 session is full and is now closed. Seating is limited, so please email us right away if you are interested in attending.

Please email us at: info@orangecountyspca.org if you have any questions.


Where can I go for therapy dog training?

While there are many options for therapy dog training, we recommend working with the Zoom Room in Huntington Beach. You can find info on the Zoom Room’s therapy dog training here.