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Why Pet Therapy?

The OSU Pet Therapy Program has been designed and developed to enhance the wellness of our campus population and contribute to the success of being America’s HEALTHIEST Campus®.


The benefits of pet ownership have been well documented.  It makes sense that

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allowing animals in the workplace can have the same effect as living with them.


According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness. They can also provide greater opportunities for exercise and outdoor activities.


According to PetMD, in addition to improving the lives of their owners, pets also strengthen relationships among humans. 


Therapy vs. Service Animals

The broad definition of a therapy animal is defined as an animal trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, hospices, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations such as disaster areas.


It is important to note there are differences between service animals, therapy animals, working animals, and emotional support animals. A service animal provides assistance for individuals and should not be touched while they are working. Therapy animals, on the other hand, are trained to interact with a variety of people — petting, touching, and asking questions are encouraged. A working dog is a purpose-trained canine that learns and performs tasks to assist its human companions.  Emotional support dogs are not considered service dogs under the ADA. They may be trained for a specific owner, but they are not trained for specific tasks or duties to aid a person with a disability, and this is the main difference between ESAs and service dogs. Because of these differences, you should always ask before touching an animal wearing a vest.


More information regarding the differences in each of these animals can be found here.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I recognize a Pet Therapy animal on campus?

    OSU Pet Therapy animals are required to wear an official OSU Tartan working vest, OSU Pete’s Pet Posse collar and matching leash while on campus. The vest will have the Pete’s Pet Posse star and pawprint, as well as the dog’s name. Owners/handlers will most likely be identified by a polo or shirt recognizing them as part of a pet therapy team, as well as a name tag. They will also carry a backpack with the pet therapy logo.


    Animals on Campus 

    As a reminder, only dogs specifically recognized by Pete’s Pet Posse and dogs identified as service animals as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act are allowed in campus buildings. Approved emotional support animals are restricted to residential housing. Other than in the case of these limited exceptions, pets and emotional support animals are not to be in campus buildings. 


    If your department would like more information on the benefits of the OSU pet therapy program, see below or contact

  • Does the animal belong to OSU?

    No, the animal lives with his/her family and acts as a volunteer on behalf of OSU. We simply ask OSU families to consider training their family pet to become a therapy animal on campus.

  • What does the animal do as a Pet Therapy animal?

    Animals will work in various departments across campus.  Each department determines the appropriate use of their pet therapy animal. The animal can be asked to do multiple things and the program serves a variety of purposes. Some animals may simply act as a greeter and others may serve in a true therapeutic or counseling setting. Again, the role of the animal will be determined by the department and the owner/handler.

  • What is the purpose of the program?

    Research has shown that animals have wellness benefits such as lowering blood pressure and even cholesterol levels. In addition, they can help with feelings of loneliness and can even just help brighten someone's day. This program is an additional wellness benefit in the area of emotional health. The program extends across all campus borders and touches all areas of the population – students, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors.

  • How do I apply for the program?

    You can download an application from the home page during August/September. Please be advised you must discuss the application with your supervisor/department head, and his/her signature is also required on the form.

  • Does my application guarantee acceptance into the program?

    No, the application does not guarantee acceptance. Many factors go into the decision making process and the advisory board makes the final selections for the program. Class size is also limited.

  • What happens after I apply?

    The OSU Pet Therapy Program Coordinator will contact you upon receipt of your application. Additional instructions will be given regarding appointments and exact time frames. Owners/handlers will be interviewed by members of the Pet Therapy Advisory Board and will then be asked to schedule a physical exam and disposition evaluation for their animal.  


    The Advisory Board reviews applications and feedback regarding interviews, disposition evaluation and the physical examination. Teams are selected during the December board meeting. The entire selection process can take up to four months.

  • What happens after the physical exam and disposition evaluation?

    The Advisory Board meets in December and results from each of the components will be discussed. The Advisory Board will then review and discuss the information that has been provided. The Board will vote to accept or deny application. Many factors are taken into consideration when accepting an animal into the program. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to, number of animals currently in each department, amount of time owner/handler has to devote to the program, health of the animal, and affiliation with OSU.

  • Do I have to use a specific trainer?

    Yes, the program has identified a program trainer and training with the group is required. The program involves an 8-10 week group training class and owners/handlers are expected to attend the class with other dogs and owners/handlers in the program. This method creates a bond among the group and will prepare you for visits across campus. The class will also test together for both Canine Good Citizen and therapy dog registration. Training together will help create a stronger success rate.  

  • What if my dog already has the Canine Good Citizen and is a registered therapy dog?

    We ask that you pay the fees involved and still attend the group training sessions, as is required for all others accepted into the program. The class is a good way to “refresh” your skills and it will give you a stronger sense of the program and expectations. It will also help build a bond with other pet therapy teams.

  • How much training does it take and how much does it cost?

    Currently, the 8-10 week group training class cost $350 and there is a minimum number of classes required by our trainers. Classes typically meet on a weekday evening for one hour. Additional training is required/recommended on your own throughout the week.

  • Are the Canine Good Citizen and Alliance of Therapy Dogs testing included in the initial fee?

    No, as is consistent with OSU policy, any registrations/certifications received are the property of the individual and not the institution. Upon termination or retirement, these registrations/certifications go with the individual and are not tied to the university; therefore, they are not covered by the program. Cost for CGC testing is $10 (one time fee), and upon successful completion of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs registration, a $40 fee is required. Renewal of Alliance of Therapy Dogs membership is $30 annually thereafter.

  • Who pays for training?

    Training may be paid for by the department, owner/handler, or by a donor to the Pet Therapy Program – or any combination thereof. An OSU Pet Therapy fund has been set up at the OSU Foundation for fees to be deposited. All money is due to the OSU Foundation prior to the first training class.

  • What if I cannot afford the training?

    One scholarship for each class will be given and a scholarship application is made available when the class application is released. Your department may elect to pay for the training via a Foundation account transfer. Another option is to consider finding a donor willing to pay the cost.

  • What is involved in the training?

    The class trains together and learns basic obedience skills as well as what it means to be a therapy animal on a college campus. Specific skills are practiced at each weekly session and homework assignments are given for the next week. At the conclusion of the 8-10 week group training class, your dog should successfully pass the Canine Good Citizen. Upon completion of the CGC, pet therapy teams then test for Alliance of Therapy Dogs registration.

  • What if my dog has never had training?

    Your dog doesn’t have to be trained prior to being accepted. Each of our training classes has a variety of dogs and a wide range of training levels. The important piece is your dog is trainable and you are willing to work with him/her to prepare for the CGC and ATD registration.

  • What testing is required for the animals and is it covered by the cost of the training?

    Animals first test for their Canine Good Citizen (CGC) through the American Kennel Club. A CGC evaluator will come to OSU to test each animal, and the class tests individually, but at the same time. Cost of the Canine Good Citizen test is $10 and it is not covered by the cost of the group training class. The $10 fee is due when the animal is tested. The Alliance of Therapy Dogs registration test only requires a fee when passed. That fee is $40 ($30 membership fee, plus $10 processing fee), and then $30 annually to renew membership.

  • What happens after the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test?

    If your animal passes the CGC, the next step is to test for registration with Alliance of Therapy Dogs. The process involves a handling test and three observed visits and all applicants are required to pass a background check.


    The handling test and the observed visits are coordinated by the pet therapy program. The $40 cost for the registration is also in addition to the group training class cost and must be paid at the time of submission of the membership application to Alliance of Therapy Dogs. Once the animal is registered, it requires a yearly $30 fee to maintain registration status with Alliance of Therapy Dogs. 

  • What happens if my department doesn't want to participate?

    While the OSU Pet Therapy Program has many benefits, we realize it is not for all departments and all individuals. Ultimately, the department must agree to have the therapy dog in the office. If your department does not want the dog in the office, it is possible to apply and only be available for special appearances. However, when reviewing applications, first consideration will be given to those animals who are available in both the office and across campus for special appearances.

  • How often do I bring my animal to work?

    The animal’s schedule is to be agreed upon by the department and the owner/handler. The department and owner/handler should work together to determine the best schedule for the animal, owner/handler, and the office.  In addition, each dog is different and will let you know how long and how many days they can work.

  • What if someone in my office is afraid of dogs?  Or what if someone is allergic to dogs?

    Any staff issues related to the OSU Pet Therapy Program must be addressed by the department. The office of Human Resources may assist as needed. The department will be responsible for creating and implementing its own policy as it relates to the program. The pet therapy program is an added wellness benefit to those who wish to participate and should not be forced upon anyone who does not wish to participate.

  • Can I leave work to take my animal to other offices to visit?

    The pet therapy program is popular and pet therapy teams are requested at numerous events and other offices.   Whether or not you may leave your current position to go to another department for a visit will be at the discretion of your supervisor. HR Consultants can help answer questions regarding whether or not leave must be taken.

  • Besides my department, where do the animals visit?

    Special Appearance requests for pet therapy teams vary.  Visits may be conducted in the library, residence halls, student union, new student orientation, group/organization functions, etc. In addition, days and times also vary. Some may be during normal working hours and others may be outside working hours. Some may be during the weekday and some may be during the weekend. Every pet therapy team should plan to volunteer hours outside of the normal workday to participate.

  • Can I visit other places besides OSU with my pet?

    Once the pet therapy team is certified with Alliance of Therapy Dogs, the certification is nationally recognized. Therefore, you can visit any facility (such as schools, nursing homes, hospitals, etc) that accepts pet therapy animals. However, all gear related to the OSU Pet Therapy program must be removed and it will not be considered a Pete’s Pet Posse visit. When visiting off campus and at non-OSU sponsored events, you are a representative of Alliance of Therapy Dogs and not OSU and should represent yourself accordingly.

  • Once I am accepted into the program, am I always a part of the OSU Pet Therapy Program?

    Pet therapy teams will be evaluated each year. The OSU Pet Therapy Advisory Board will conduct a yearly review of the pet therapy teams in the program. Owners/handlers are asked to submit a monthly report to the pet therapy program coordinator showing dates, times, locations, groups, and number of people visited.

  • What happens if I am accepted into the program, but have to leave the university?

    If you leave the university within the first year of participation in the program, you will be required to reimburse the program for all benefits received up to the point of departure. This includes training (if paid for by your department), preventative medications, food, and any other expenses incurred by the department or the OSU Veterinary Hospital.

  • If I leave the university what happens to my pet?

    The animals belong to the owners/handlers and are not the property of the university. Your pet continues to reside with you and your family.

  • If I leave the university or decide to no longer participate in P3, what happens to my CGC Certification and my Alliance of Therapy Dogs Registration?

    The CGC certification is a one time test and one time expense and will remain associated with your animal. In addition, as long as you pay the annual membership fee for the Alliance of Therapy Dogs certification, you and your animal can continue therapy work as a representative of Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

  • What is involved for me as an owner/handler?

    Owners/handlers should be committed to the program in all areas. This includes commitment to training, taking care of the pet as a member of the family, transporting in a safe manner, and understanding the requirements of the program. In addition to “office hours” pet therapy teams are requested at a variety of functions across campus and are expected to participate, even if that means volunteering your time.

  • Does my pet have to be treated at the OSU Veterinary Medical Hospital?

    You may continue to use your veterinarian if s/he is not at the OSU Veterinary Medical Hospital, but all documentation for your animal should be sent to Dr. Lara Sypniewski at OSUVMH to keep on file. If you wish to receive the Heartguard and Frontline benefits, then your pet must complete a yearly wellness exam at the OSUVMH.

  • What are the benefits to being in the program?

    As a benefit of being part of Pete’s Pet Posse, all animals receive monthly preventative care (monthly flea/tick/heartworm preventative), microchipping (if not already microchipped), and food discounts are provided by Royal Canine and Hill’s. A discounted pet insurance premium is also available through ASPCA. In addition, a discounted yearly wellness exam is provided by the OSU Veterinary Medical Hospital. Upon completion of the program, the dogs are provided P3 collars, leashes, backpacks, university badges, and trading cards. The owner/handler also receives a P3 clothing stipend and can purchase additional clothing at his/her own expense.

  • What is the difference between a “regular” pet and a pet therapy animal?

    A pet therapy animal receives special training, above and beyond basic obedience training.

  • What is the difference between a pet therapy animal and a service animal?

    There is a BIG difference. A service animal performs a certain function or set of tasks for an individual. When a service dog is working, that animal is not to be interacted with, distracted or petted. A therapy animal is trained to interact with a variety of people in a variety of settings and petting is encouraged. To be sure, please ask the owner/handler if petting is allowed.  

  • Can I bring my pet to work?

    As a reminder, only dogs specifically recognized by Pete’s Pet Posse and dogs identified as service animals as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act are allowed in campus buildings. Approved emotional support animals are restricted to residential housing. Other than in the case of these limited exceptions, pets and emotional support animals are not to be in campus buildings. 


    If your department would like more information on the benefits of the OSU pet therapy program contact


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