top of page

“The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors considered essential to the health and wellbeing of both. This bond is beneficial to the mental, physical, and social health of people, and animals.” American Veterinary Medical Association

Thank you for your interest in a PAL visit!

PAL volunteer therapy dog-handler teams make visits at nearly 100 host sites in the DC metro area, including hospitals, retirement homes, assisted-living communities, shelters helping families overcome homelessness, hospice facilities, police and fire stations, correctional facilities, K-12 schools and universities, public libraries, and government offices. Each PAL therapy team chooses a primary host site at which they make recurring visits. PAL volunteers also can sign up for one-off, “pup-up” visits coordinated by PAL. 

If your organization or facility would like to be considered for recurring visits, a community placement (volunteer match), or a “pup-up” visit from one or more PAL teams, please review the information below:

1) How to plan a successful therapy dog visit

2) How you can help sustain & expand access to PAL visits

3) Host Site Facilitator Information & Responsibilities

4) Apply for a Visit

1) How to plan a successful therapy dog visit

MicrosoftTeams-image (102)_edited_edited.jpg

Carefully tailor the animal-assisted activity to your goal(s) and the needs of the participants.

Is your goal to support reading skills, assist with social-emotional skills, relieve stress, teach about animal welfare, promote empathy, or support those with special needs, diagnoses, or disabilities?  Design a session that is appropriate to the needs you have identified and one with the potential to produce beneficial results.

Consider the welfare needs of the animals and eliminate unnecessary contact and/or stress.

A core tenet of PAL is honoring the mutuality of the human-animal bond.   Therapy dogs should enjoy and not merely tolerate visits and interactions.  It helps to think about how the world looks, smells, sounds, and feels from a dog’s point of view and how the dog might be experiencing the intervention.   Loud noises, tight spaces, crowding, and leaning over a dog can cause stress and discomfort for them.  Proactively design a visit to avoid and minimize stress, and react promptly to a dog showing signs of stress. Thank you for partnering with us to ensure the safety, welfare, and enjoyment of dogs and human participants alike. Read more.

MicrosoftTeams-image (202)_edited.jpg

Prepare participants with appropriate safety and welfare training in advance of dog-assisted interventions.

Explain the reason for ground rules such as staying calm, quiet, and showing respect and consideration for the dogs. Participants should not rush up to or crowd the dogs.  Participants should not hug or kiss the dogs.  See Lili Chin’s poster “How Not to Greet a Dog”
(and “the correct way”) and the “Pat Pet Pause” poster from


Safeguard participants’ welfare.

Monitor participants' interactions with the dogs, especially if your visit is with children or vulnerable adults.  In advance of the session, obtain valid consent from participants and caregivers (for children and those lacking capacity to consent by themselves) and gather information on allergies and phobias via a brief questionnaire to participants/caregivers.  Practice high standards of personal and environmental hygiene.  Have participants wash their hands or use hand-sanitizer before and after petting the dogs.  Clean the floor of all debris and items such as backpacks, food, and other potential hazards.

MicrosoftTeams-image (185)_edited.jpg

 Follow PAL policies and observe best practices in animal assisted interventions.

Plan for the visit to take place in a quiet space free of distracting sounds and food and spacious enough that PAL teams can maintain at least a 6-foot distance from each other.  Keep participant-to-dog ratios low, and allow no more than 2-3 participants to interact with a dog at a time.  Most PAL visits are a maximum of one hour in length to ensure the dogs do not become fatigued.  Before planning your visit, we invite you to explore the resources on our website, including the IAHAIO Definitions for Animal Assisted Intervention and Guidelines for Wellness of Animals Involved in AAI.

2) How you can help sustain & expand access to PAL visits

PAL never charges for visits from our friendly therapy dog-handler teams, who spread love, joy, and comfort to tens of thousands of individuals annually. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, PAL relies on the generous contributions of individuals, community partners, foundations, and companies to advance our mission of using the human-animal bond to comfort the lonely, ease the pain of the sick, and enrich people's lives. We greatly appreciate your support so that we can continue to provide therapy dog services to our community members with the greatest need and expand our visits to as many people as possible. If you, your company, or your organization would like to sponsor a PAL therapy team, sponsor monthly visits at a school, hospital, library, or other PAL host site, or provide general operating support, please call (202) 966-2171, email, or donate here. Thank you!


To our host site partners: Since our founding in 1982, PAL has dedicated our staff and volunteer resources to supporting children, seniors, individuals coping with grief, loss, or illness, and other vulnerable populations in our communities. We respectfully request donations from for-profit host sites, and we encourage all host site partners who receive PAL visits to contribute what they can. Even $25 per visiting hour (an annual contribution of $300 for monthly visits from a PAL team) goes a long way to offset the costs of our animal-assisted support program. 

Suggested donation levels for visits

Private company workplace wellness visit: $500-$750
Nonprofit workplace wellness visit: $100-$250
Private school/college visit: $250-$500
Association visit: $500-$750
Conference visit: $1,500-$2,500

3) Host Site Facilitator Information and Responsibilities

Click the button below to learn what you can expect from PAL and our dog-handler teams and what we expect from you and your site. When submitting your visit application, you will be asked to acknowledge that you understand and agree to Host Site Facilitator Information and Responsibilities.

4) Apply for a Visit

Although PAL cannot say “yes” to every visit request, we are always interested in exploring new community partnerships and host sites for visits. We prioritize visits with children, seniors, and vulnerable populations, in service of our mission of comforting the lonely, easing the pain of the sick, and enriching people’s lives through the power of the human-animal bond. Due to high demand and a finite number of therapy teams, there is a waitlist for new visits.  

bottom of page