Become an AAT Volunteer

The checklist below gives more information on qualifying for work in the general AAT Program, where all teams begin and serve at least three months in the general program before starting advanced training. Please note that, in keeping with our Society-wide campaign against prong collars, your pet should, at all times, be on a flat collar or harness--during testing, visitation, and while certified through our programs. We also do not allow retractable leashes, "e"/electric shock, "vibrating", "bark", "spray", or "buzzing" collars.

Prerequisites: All incoming teams must have at least two obedience courses prior to registering for Preliminary Evaluation. **The classes must be rooted in positive reinforcement training. If you have taken training courses, but are unsure whether they meet this qualification, please contact us at 415.554.3060 or

  • Application
    Please download and submit an application to begin your volunteer processing. Note: If you are only able to volunteer on weekends and/or evenings, we are accepting those applications but may not have as many visit opportunities for you at this time.

  • AAT Orientation
    All participants must complete an AAT orientation, which are offered on the San Francisco SPCA campus on a minimum of seven Tuesdays and seven Sundays over the course of each calendar year. Please use the link to register.


  • Preliminary Evaluation

    In addition to evaluating your pet for solicitation and handling (e.g. picking up paws, restraining hug, muzzle hold), your pet will be tested on the following obedience skills:

5 second sit, 5 second down, 5 second stay, touch/target (or "go say hi"), and leave it (or "off") using a high-value treat

     Your pet has two opportunities per evaluation to demonstrate the above elements.  


  • AAT Training Series

Teams strengthen skills and responses required to safely, effectively, and compassionately face the challenges of visitation. Training and evaluation includes guided practice, personalized strategies for improvement, opportunities to demonstrate test elements and a mock visit prior to field evaluation. The class meets for three weeks, 1.5 hours per week. Teams train at the San Francisco SPCA for two sessions and spend the third working in the field. The fee is $200—payment arrangements are available to those in need. You will be eligible to sign up for class only after your pet has successfully demonstrated all five elements required in the preliminary evaluation. You also must have your first Health Certificate on file or in hand to be permitted to participate in Class One.

  • Veterinary Health Certification
    Veterinary certification confirms that your pet is free of zoonotic diseases and current on vaccines, as well as verifying surgical alteration/chemical castration (a requirement for all pets representing the San Francisco SPCA through our AAT programs). We encourage those in training to submit your first Health Certificate at your Preliminary Evaluation. Thereafter, Health Certficates also must be submitted annually, and in a timely fashion, and include proof of up-to-date rabies vaccination, a current negative fecal result, and overall good health. NOTE: our contact facilities depend on us to have these certificates on file and always up-to-date.  

  • Shadow Visits (Two observations without your pet and One mentored visit with your pet after completing field evaluation)
    Shadowing enables incoming teams to experience visitation first hand. Many of our long-term volunteers offer shadowing opportunities and you will learn more both at orientation and as you progress in the training program.

Standard certification prepares teams for


*Frail Seniors and Alzheimer's/Dementia Units

*In-Facility Hospice

*Hospitalized Patients

*Convalescent Centers

*Skilled Nursing

*Psychiatric Units

*Adult Day Health 


*Outpatient Mental/Behavioral Health

*Developmentally Disabled Adults

*Students Age 18+


NOTE: Those interested in working with children and/or adolescents in psychiatric settings, special education classrooms, and other non-Puppy Dog Tales options must still submit fingerprinting and submit TB test results. Those interested in making in-home hospice visits must go through hospice training that we provide. Finally, those interested in visiting hospitals often must meet additional requirements, ranging from fingerprinting to site-specifc training, before placement. 

Contact the Animal Assisted Therapy department at 415.554.3060 or email