Any questions that you may have or that are not covered here, can be answered by your local Team Leader.  Please visit our Team Leader page for a team located near you.

What is Therapeutic Paws of Canada?

We are a national non-profit volunteer organization providing dog and cat visitation resources for human needs. We bring those that have been separated from their beloved pet the opportunity to once again enjoy the love and companionship of a dog or cat.

How long has TPOC existed?

In August 2002 TPOC was registered and received the Letters Patent. In May 2003 TPOC was recognized as a charitable entity with charitable registration no. 86535 9350 RR0001.

TPOC Tax Receipts

An official tax receipt may be requested for donations $25.00 and more.

Who runs the organization?

The Chair and Board of Directors direct the organization. In addition, there are numerous Team Leaders, District Team Leaders, Evaluators and District Evaluators. All TPOC members are volunteers with the exception of a nominal fee paid to the bookkeeper.

Who pays to run the organization?

TPOC is wholly dependent upon donations and a portion of the Team Admin Fee.

How do you determine that the volunteer and dog are suitable for your various programs?

Each handler and dog/cat must successfully pass the Therapy Evaluation. The handler must be willing to submit to a vulnerable person police check, supply three references and both the handler and pet must demonstrate appropriate visiting skills at subsequent monitored visits.

My dog is great with children and that is who I want to visit.

Each handler/dog that interacts with children in hospitals, schools, libraries etc. must participate in the Interaction with Children evaluation and have passed the Therapy Dog Evaluation. They must have visiting experience with seniors prior to participating in this evaluation.

How much am I insured for as a member of TPOC?

Every member is insured for $5 million third-party liability while on their designated TPOC visit. The insurance is in force provided the member is identified as a TPOC volunteer and abiding by the TPOC Visiting Guidelines. Please note that insurance does not cover travel to and from the TPOC visit. The minimum age for insurance coverage is 18 years.

I have two dogs: do I have to pay $35.00 for each dog even if they are both in the same evaluation? The evaluation fee is $35.00 per dog/per handler – i.e. one handle/two dogs $70.00.

My spouse and I want to be evaluated with two cats so we can visit with either cat. Do we each have to pay $35.00 at the evaluation?

Yes, you would each pay $35.00 for a total of $70.00.

Does TPOC charge the volunteers an annual fee?

TPOC charges an annual Team Admin Fee of $35.00 per volunteer to cover the expenses for essential services i.e. website, training seminars, accountant services, insurance.

Can I take a child, other family member or a friend with me when I do my TPOC visit?

No. We do not take anyone on visits with us, unless they too are members of TPOC. Your pet should be centre stage during your visit. It is too difficult to watch your dog/cat, a child or adult guest all at the same time; we need to watch our pets carefully during a visit. TPOC guarantees to facilities that members have no police records and we cannot make that guarantee for non-TPOC members.

Can my 13 year-old child join TPOC?

Children in the 14 to 18 year old age group may join TPOC but must be accompanied by one or both parents (who must also be TPOC members). Children under 18 must write a letter to the Chair of TPOC to explain what their dog/cat experience is; what their commitment to pet therapy will be and why they want to get involved in pet therapy. Even these younger members must receive a police clearance.

Does my dog have to wear a TPOC vest on visits?

The TPOC dog vest is optional except for Paws to Read® teams. The Paws to Read® child certified dogs must wear a vest while they are on a TPOC visit.

Can my dog get up on the bed to visit?

The first category of the therapy dog evaluation indicates that those dogs weighing less than 15 pounds may be lifted and carried because this would be the appropriate weight/size of a dog that would be placed in someone’s lap or on someone’s bed. Of course, the handler must first place a pad, mat or towel down for the dog to lay on. A middle size dog weighing 20-30 pounds may be taught to sit on the chair beside a bed so that the client can pet the dog’s head. Larger breed dogs should keep their paws on the floor.

I just joined TPOC and my dog is really great with kids: Can I start in the Paws to Read® program right away? Dogs new to TPOC must visit for 6 months at a retirement residence, nursing home or hospital before taking the Interaction With Children Evaluation. In all cases, the TL must write a letter to the Director of Evaluators outlining the qualities and experience of the dog/handler in their recommendations for this particular team. For example, explain if a dog lives with multiple children or has had extensive interaction with many children. Team Leader, please read the Manual for a more detailed and complete explanation.

I had a police records check done when I joined a choir two months ago: Can I use the same police records check for TPOC to avoid paying an additional fee to have another police records check done?

Because we visit vulnerable populations (i.e. elderly people and children) each member must have a vulnerable person police records search completed. TPOC will accept a police check done on behalf of another organization if completed within the previous 12 months and it must clearly indicate that it was a vulnerable person records search. Along with a copy of this type of police certificate, the volunteer must sign a TPOC Confirmation form. Monitored visits with TPOC cannot begin until the police record check certificate/letter is received by TPOC.

I have a police record conviction from twenty years ago: Can I join TPOC?

No. TPOC does not allow anyone with a criminal record to join, regardless of the type of conviction or length of time from the conviction.

If I have to cancel my TPOC visit, what should I do?

If you are going away on holidays, or you feel ill or your dog is unwell and you are unable to visit, please tell your Team Leader and the facility contact person.

For family reasons, I have to take three months off from visiting: Can I get a leave of absence and how do I do that?

Ask your Team Leader to arrange a leave of absence for you. Please advise your Team Leader if you haven’t been visiting for three weeks or more.

The Board of Directors has approved a change in policy regarding members who have been unable to visit for up to 12 months. Under the previous policy, members in this situation would have to be re-evaluated in order to resume visiting. For an absence longer than 12 months, re-evaluation is required, for example, a member stops visiting February 1st and is ready to start again on February 20th of the following year.

The new policy requires one or more (if necessary) monitored visit(s) by a Team Leader, Evaluator or Senior Volunteer. A monitored visit or two with a TL or Evaluator would be enough to determine whether the returning handler and pet are still interested and happy with visiting and whether the pet’s temperament has changed. An


evaluation wouldn’t be necessary unless it’s obvious that the dog/cat is no longer a suitable TPOC ambassador. If the TL/Evaluator felt during the monitored visit(s) that the dog/cat is no longer suitable, then a re-evaluation would be required.

This policy would apply also to dogs that are volunteering only in children’s programs. Where a dog/cat has displayed unsuitable behaviour on ANY visit, a re-evaluation is required without exception.

If my dog growls at a resident during a visit, what should I do?

Withdraw from the area; try to remain as calm as possible. Leave the facility and remember to sign out as you leave. If possible, make sure that the resident is not frightened or upset. Phone your Team Leader immediately and let her/him handle the situation. You will either have to withdraw from TPOC or arrange to have your dog re­evaluated.

How long are the visits?

Try to keep the visits to about 45 minutes – maximum one hour. Understandably some facilities have far too many seniors to visit in that time frame so on the following week you would start your visit at the opposite end of the facility.

The PAWS to Read® visits at the libraries and schools should be no longer than 70 minutes maximum. You should allow 10-12 minutes per child.

Does my dog need a bath every week?

No, that is not necessary unless your dog rolled in something foul smelling i.e. manure or skunk. Most dogs do well with a good shampooing everything three to four months. You must thoroughly brush your dog’s coat, clean their ears and teeth and make sure that the nails are cut short and filed smooth prior to each visit.

Can I wear shorts and sandals when I visit in the summer?

Many facilities are now requiring that all volunteers wear shoes, not sandals, when visiting. This is for hygienic reasons and reasons of avoiding the spread of infectious diseases. For this reason, TPOC volunteers are requested to wear light summer weight shoes in hot weather rather than sandals. Knee length shorts are appropriate for visitation on hot summer days.

My female dog is coming into heat: Can I take her to visit?

For several reasons you should wait another two weeks after your dog’s cycle is over before you visit. This applies to taking dogs to evaluations as well.

I go directly to my visit after work: Do I have to wear my TPOC shirt?

You must be identified as a TPOC volunteer by having the TPOC logo sewn to a red article of clothing. This will clearly identify you as a member of TPOC (good security for the facility you visit) and ensures that your insurance coverage will be in force during your visit.

I love visiting so much that I sometimes stay for two or three hours: Is this okay?

TPOC visiting guidelines indicate that a visit should last from 45 minutes to a maximum of one hour. This is in the best interest of your dog/cat. Visiting can be quite stressful for pets that are sensitive to the surrounding environment. If your dog/cat shows signs of stress, fatigue or boredom during a visit, it is time to go home and play. For hygiene reasons you would never visit more than one facility in a day.

Some residents are in the dining room adjacent to the lounge when we visit: Can we go visit them in the dining room?

Provincial health regulations prohibit non-service dogs and other animals; such as, therapy dogs/cats to visit in a dining/cooking food preparation area.


Why can’t I let my dog visit off leash when we are on our visits? He is wonderful and would never hurt anyone. Even the most wonderful dog/cat is a hazard off leash in a setting with frail, elderly people. For example, a person who is legally blind could easily trip over a dog/cat that is standing in front of or behind the person. Always think of the safety and wellbeing of the people you are visiting.

My dog always wears a harness. He doesn’t like a collar: Can he be evaluated with his harness on?

Yes. To keep the TPOC Evaluation fair to all breeds each dog must be evaluated under the similar conditions – flat buckle/snap collar or an approved harness (TPOC approved only) and a 4 or 6 foot leash. However, if after successfully completing the Evaluation you decide to change from collar to harness or vice versa you must request permission from the Director of Evaluators and Director of Team Leaders. Note that TPOC does not allow the use of extendable/flexi leashes in the evaluation or during visitation.

I have two dogs that go everywhere together: Can I take both of them on a visit?

No. It is very important for the handler to keep their eyes on their dog at all times. A problem can arise very quickly and it is impossible for you to watch two dogs visiting different people. TPOC guidelines state only one dog (on leash) per handler when visiting.

Does my dog need to be vaccinate every year?

There is a lot of controversy over the need to vaccinate your pet annually, particularly a mature dog. TPOC insists on seeing a vaccination certificate when the dog/cat is evaluated but will accept a Health Certificate or a copy of a Titer test.

My dog is fed a raw diet: Is this acceptable?

This is an area of controversy with some veterinarians and health officials concerned about the possibility of the dog carrying/spreading Salmonella. However, there are many veterinarians that support the feeding of a raw diet. Until the Ministry of Health sends out a ruling that feeding a raw diet is a proven risk to those we visit, TPOC is willing to accept a dog fed a raw diet. Please note that some facilities are refusing to allow a pet that is fed a raw food diet access to their premises.

My husband has accepted a work contract out of the province and we will be gone for about a year – can I resume visiting when I return?

No. When a dog has not visited for six months ranging up to 12 months, a monitored visit will be scheduled to ensure your dog’s temperament is meeting the evaluation criteria. For absences over 12 months a LOA must be registered with National Office and you will have to participate in another evaluation.

Leave of Absence or Resign?

If you need to stop visiting for more than three weeks please advise your Team Leader so they can rearrange the visiting schedule. For a lapse in visiting ranging up to 12 months, a monitored visit will be scheduled to ensure your dog’s temperament is meeting the evaluation criteria. For absences over 12 months a LOA must be registered with the National Office and you will have to participate in another evaluation.

Updated January 2020