Pet VIP Therapy & Visitation Program

Animal Services

Contact Information

  • Telephone: 520-321-3704 x153
  • Email: vzimmerman@hssaz.org
  • Website: https://hssaz.org/services/petvip/

  • If there is anything we understand at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona (HSSA), its the strength and importance of the human-animal bond. Anyone who has gazed into a dog’s eyes when they were stressed, or sat with a cat when they were sad, knows the effect pets can have in our lives.

    Our pet visitation volunteers witness the emotional and psychological benefits of this therapy with each visit. A national study shows that contact with an animal lowers blood pressure, decreases cholesterol levels, reduces anxiety, boosts the immune system, decreases aggression and increases socialization and communication.
    Through the Humane Society of Southern Arizona’s Pet VIP Program we screen, train, evaluate, and qualify owners and their well-behaved animals as certified Animal Assisted Activity (AAA) and Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) teams.
    To become certified, pets and their handlers attend classes for training and evaluation. Unlike highly trained “service” or “assistance” canines who serve persons with disabilities, therapy animals visit with others, offering a soothing presence, unconditional love, an affectionate nuzzle, and the occasional kiss to receptive adults and children. Through the HSSA’s Pet VIP Program, we share this unconditional love with those who need it most. Our teams bring their trained and certified pets to people of all ages in more than 80 facilities and at various events every year.
    Our Pet VIP volunteers receive as much joy from this experience as our recipients.
    Who can become a PET VIP?
    A Pet VIP team consists of a pet and its. handler. Handlers are dependable and willing to commit to a minimum of one visit per month or twelve visits per year. Handlers must attend all training classes. All animals must go through an aptitude test and must have a health exam to certify that they are healthy.
    Canine program candidates must meet these requirements:
    • Have a mellow, friendly temperament and be good with adults, children, and other animals.
    • Be at least one year old, licensed, up-to-date on vaccines, and placed with its owner for at least six months.
    • Have sound obedience skills (come when called, walk nicely on a loose leash, obey sit, stay, down).
    • We accept dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, horses and minis, and some pocket pets into our program. Other species will have different requirements. Please contact our Pet VIP Coordinator for details.
    If you have an interest in becoming a Pet VIP therapy team with your pet, call, email, or visit our Pet VIP page on our website, hssaz.org for more information.
    Sign up for Pet VIP training and certification today and make a difference in our community!