Caring Canines Pet Therapy is a pet visitation program that serves to positively impact the patient experience. Pet therapy is proven to improve patient morale and emotional well-being by providing a focus of attention and the kind of unconditional love and acceptance that only a dog can provide.

Our Caring Canine teams serve on all floors of the hospital. We’re looking to expand the program so more patients can experience the benefits of this service.  Please review our requirements, then, if you feel our program is right for you and your dog, please complete the Caring Canine Program Volunteer Application.

Most volunteers serve one day a week for a few hours.  Scheduling is flexible, depending on the needs of the patients we serve.  If you have any questions, please contact us at or 979.776.2917.

How to Become a Caring Canine Volunteer.

Volunteers must complete and submit the Caring Canine Application through the volunteer website. Volunteer applicants are also required to submit a reference letter.

Each applicant is interviewed, and then scheduled for orientation. Orientation includes online and in-person training. Volunteers must submit to a background screening and are required to complete mandatory 2-Step TB test screening and flu vaccination (required October - March).

Dog Requirements:
  1. All dogs must be healthy and free from parasites, disease, infections, and illnesses.
  2. Must be at least one year of age and have lived in the owner's home for at least six months.
  3. Annual health updates from the dog's veterinarian ensures program quality and consistency.
    1. Cost for all inoculations, examinations, and licensure are the responsibility of the animal owner.
    2. Proof of updated documentation (veterinarian exam, required immunizations, rabies immunization, parasite prevention and county licensure) must be presented at orientation and updated each year that the animal participates in the program.
    3. All documentation is maintained in Volunteer Services.
  4. Pass initial Animal Screening (Health, Skills, and Aptitude) and pass re-evaluation every two years by a licensed evaluator.
    1. Reactions toward strangers
    2. Reactions to loud and/or novel stimuli
    3. Reactions to angry voices and potentially threatening gestures
    4. Reactions to being crowded
    5. Reactions to being patted in a vigorous or clumsy manner
    6. Reactions to a restraining hug
    7. Reactions to other animals
    8. Ability to obey handler's commands
  5. Dogs must be clean and well groomed. Dogs shall be bathed and/or thoroughly brushed prior to a visit; nails clipped (free from sharp edges), ears clean, free of any odor, eyes clean, free from flees/ticks, and have clean breath with teeth brushed.
  6. Dogs shall wear a collar or harness that is well maintained and odor free.
  7. Dogs shall be on a leash no longer than 4 feet in length. Leashes should be non-retractable. No choke chains or prong collars are permitted as they may trap and injure patient's fingers.
  8. Dogs shall always remain with the owner and be under control at all times.
  9. Dogs must wear their proper vest and volunteer ID to be allowed in patient rooms as St. Joseph Regional Health Center.
  10. Dogs fed any raw or dehydrated (but otherwise raw) foods, chews, or treats of animal origin within the past 90 days cannot participate in the program.

If you are interested and feel that you and your dog meet our requirements, please complete the online Caring Canines application. For more information, contact us at or 979.776.2917.