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Membership Guidelines


West Michigan Therapy Dogs, Inc. (WMTD) is a group of Animal Assisted Activity volunteers in Western Michigan. We do not accept monetary reimbursement for any of the services our members provide.


1. General Membership is open to all handler and dog teams that have met the certification requirements of WMTD and may also be registered members of additional therapy animal organizations that allow dual registration.


2. Dogs must have a current rabies vaccine.


3.Dogs must have a current DHLLP vaccine or titers. However, some facilities may not accept titers as proof of vaccine. Some facilities may prohibit a dog with titers-only to visit due to that facility's policy. A fecal test that is negative for parasites is required prior to the prescreen test and annually for active members. *


3. Dogs must receive a Bordatella vaccine within 6 months prior to taking Introduction to Pet Therapy classes. Bordatella vaccines for all other WMTD level of memberships are recommended. Dogs given the nasal vaccines may not visit for one week following vaccination. Dogs given injectable vaccines may not visit for five days following initial injection, but have no restrictions following future vaccinations per their veterinarian’s recommendations. *


4. Flea/tick treatments are highly recommended. Dogs who wear flea/tick collars must have them removed at least 50 hours prior to a visit and a full bath at least 24 - 48 hours prior to a visit. Dogs given topical flea/tick treatments must wait at least 24 hours following a treatment to visit.


5. Handlers are encouraged to give participating dogs an annual heartworm test and have their dog on preventative medication as advised by their veterinarian.


6. Female dogs may not participate in therapy visits or club events while in heat.


7. Dogs must be clean, well-groomed and parasite free. Grooming includes clean teeth and ears, and trimmed, filed toenails. Handlers must be clean, well-groomed, and in compliance with the facility dress code or WMTD Handler Dress Code Guidelines.


8. Dogs must be well socialized with other dogs, and not food aggressive.


9. A parent or guardian must accompany handlers under 16 years of age while participating in all WMTD visits and/or activities. The adult who is going to volunteer with the Junior Handler on volunteer visits must accompany Junior Handlers through all class sessions and shadow visits. Junior Handler Membership is open to handlers aged 10 to 17.


10. A team consists of one dog and one handler. Dogs must also be kept on a leash at all times in accordance with registration liability requirements. Handlers are required to use a maximum of a 6-foot lead while participating in therapy visits. Due to liability considerations, we suggest using a traffic lead with large dogs. Flexi and chain leads are not allowed.


11. The following collar or harness types are allowed in fabric or leather: quick-release, snap, limited-slip (martingale) or buckle collars; a body step-in harness (leash clips to a ring on the back of the dog); or head halter are accepted by WMTD. (Metal hardware such as buckles, slip rings, and D-rings are allowed on equipment). If a team uses a harness or halter during the certification exam, the same equipment is required during therapy visits.  Metal collars and harnesses including martingales with metal links in the central connection sections, slip collars of any type, training collars such as pinch, prong, spike, electric, or spray collars or "no-pull" harnesses other than those specified above are not allowed in the therapy environment.


12. WMTD logo bandana or vests are not to be worn by WMTD-registered dogs except during WMTD official volunteering, events, and activities. Socialization training in the community is not considered a volunteer event. A WMTD member can utilize a bandana or vest with Therapy-Dog-in-Training or the dog's name and "therapy dog" without the logo for socialization training.


13. No team may make visits at WMTD registered programs using a WMTD logo bandana or vest until the team has met the general membership and health requirements. A bandana reading “Therapy dog in training” is provided during Introduction to Pet Therapy classes. This bandana must be used when completing the initial, supervised, shadow visits that are required for registration.


14. All therapy dogs and their handlers must follow all rules and regulations in each facility.


15. If an incident occurs while on a visit, which causes injury to employee, resident or attendee in the facility: a) Immediately contact the facility’s supervisor on duty; b) document the incident on all required forms for the facility and c) contact the Director of Programs to complete the WMTD incident reporting process.


16. Requests for any exceptions to the Member Guidelines shall be submitted in writing to the Director of Membership for review by the Board of Directors.


17. In compliance with the American Veterinary Medical Association's recommendations, as of 6/1/2008, dogs that are fed a raw diet (including BARF diets) are not eligible for WMTD registration.


18. In compliance with the State of Michigan Laws, dogs must be Canis lupus familiaris. No wolf-hybrids will be accepted for training or registration purposes. 


19. Dogs that have had previous training in or participate in bite work and/or protection training (i.e. Schutzhund) are excluded from WMTD classes and membership.   


20. At the discretion of the Board of Directors of WMTD, a handler and dog may be asked to temporarily or permanently refrain from further visits under the name of WMTD if the above guidelines fail to be strictly adhered to.


21. Beginning June 1,2008, all handler and dog teams must go through the Introduction to Pet Therapy Course and pass graduation requirements for membership. Recertification every two years by passing the WMTD Registration test in addition to volunteering on average one hour per month is required to maintain active membership for handler and dog.


22. Associate membership is available for those who do not have a current dog team member. Class participation is not required for this non-voting membership status.

23. Membership and renewals are offered on a two-year basis. Membership is extended to even months when a team initially graduates from the Introduction to Pet Therapy Class series, or when an Associate Member enrolls. For example, a graduation or enrollment in November will expire in December after two years. The membership for an adult member with one or more dogs is $50. An additional $20 fee is required for a secondary handler in households with one dog. Secondary handlers in the same household with one dog, dues are an additional $20 per two-year membership. Households with more than one handler and more than one dog are enrolled as individual members. Junior Handlers aged 10 to 17 are $20 per two-year membership. Senior Members are active general members aged 55 and older and receive a $10 discount off a primary membership and $5 off a secondary handler membership. Emeritus Members are those members who have been involved with WMTD for at least five (5) years and do not currently have an active dog teammate. Emeritus members do not pay dues. Associate Members are community members who support the mission and purpose of WMTD but do not have an active registered dog. Associate membership dues are $50 for a two-year membership. 


*  If the dog’s veterinarian has advised against vaccinations, a letter from the veterinarian must be received and reviewed by the Board prior to taking classes or volunteering with the dog.


revised 3/10/2019