Steps to Join

Loving Animals Providing Smiles (LAPS) wants each therapy team handler to be a proud, skilled member of our group, and each pet to be a happy, balanced partner when working with the public.

We require our teams to complete a comprehensive membership process. Based on our long experience in training pets and handlers to provide quality animal-assisted therapy, we have developed the following procedure:

  • Complete the LAPS registration process

    which includes completing the Application for Membership, attending the LAPS Animal-Assisted Therapy Team Handling Skills Class, and passing the LAPS Skills & Aptitude Team Evaluation.

  • Complete a 3-month Probation Period

    by attending at least four program session(s) under the guidance of a mentor. Experienced members (many of whom are also dog trainers) help new handlers learn how to conduct themselves while communicating with their pets successfully and safely.

  • Participate year-round by attending a minimum of 2 therapy sessions per month, one of which must be a scheduled group program   

    This commitment ensures LAPS planned therapy sessions are supported and that teams continue to build a sense of community with each other.

  • Attend general meetings

    By participating in general meetings, members have a greater opportunity to help direct our group and stay connected with each other.

  • Help support the organization via fundraisers, public and special events 

    We look to our members to make time to support LAPS outside of therapy sessions. Since we never charge facilities for our services, we ask members to help us raise the funds needed to support our teams and our therapy programs. We also attend special events to increase public awareness for animal-assisted therapy activities in our community. Time spent outside of therapy sessions allows LAPS members to work together toward our common goals.


How do I Start?

Download, fill out and mail an application, along with a copy of your pet’s vaccination records, to our office. Once that is received, a LAPS volunteer will contact you to learn more about you, your pet, and your interests. We will help you through all the remaining steps. 

LAPS Classes

In the Spring and Fall of each year, LAPS offers a class for potential new therapy teams. This class is generally held in Napa, CA. A week or two after the class, LAPS holds an evaluation day. Teams not preparing for LAPS evaluation and membership are allowed to participate in our classes on a space-available basis. 

Prerequisites: 

  • Spend time reading up on Animal-Assisted Therapy. See our resources list.
  • Socialize your dog. Make sure he or she is introduced to new places, people, things, noises, smells, etc. Please respect your pet’s behavior threshold and reduce distractions if your pet shows signs of stress.
  • Attend obedience classes with your dog to develop solid foundation skills. Your dog should know sit, down, stay, come, wait, & leave it.
  • Look into taking the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test. These skills are the minimum required to pass the obedience portion of the LAPS Skills and Aptitude Team Evaluation. 
  • After completing the above, contact LAPS to enroll in the Animal-Assisted Therapy Team Handling Skills class.

What’s covered?

Our 6-week team training class will help you and your pet develop the skills necessary for successful Animal-Assisted Therapy work. Your dog must be dog-friendly and possess solid basic obedience skills. You will: 

  • Learn about safety and healthcare issues 
  • Discover how to help your pet be a happy and effective partner 
  • Practice with healthcare equipment and many types of distractions 
  • Receive assessment for working with children, teens and elder populations 
  • Practice your team skills in the real world on a field trip

 For more information, download our most recent class flyer from downloads section on this page.