How to Join and Frequently Asked Questions

How to join Cornell Companions and other frequently asked questions

Question: Do you provide training for dogs
Answer: No we do not provide any training

Question: How do I become a volunteer with Cornell companions?
Answer: You will need to take the on-line training sessions for handlers which is usually offered once a year in the Fall. Registration opens in the Spring and fills up quickly as we can only take about 20 people due to the limited time in a weekend to do the handler/pet screening

Question: What happens during pet screening?
Answer: An outside evaluator, most likely a veterinarian trained as a behaviorist will first determine that your pet- in the case of a dog can perform all the basic obedience exercises without the use of treats. These include:- walking on a loose leash, sit and down on command, come, and that he/she knows the very important ‘leave it’ command. To help identify which facility you and your pet will be best suited the evaluator will assess your animal’s temperament, activity level and personality.

Question: How much does it cost to join?
Answer: We do not have a membership fee. We do have a handler/pet screening fee to cover the cost of bringing in our outside evaluator for the test. This is $10 per handler/animal/screening.

Question: What if my animal doesn’t pass?
Answer: A major advantage of having a veterinarian trained as a behaviorist to assist in the evaluations is that they will be able to identify if an animal is not suited for this type of work, or needs more training. The evaluator will tell the handler his/her thoughts and if more training is needed provide suggestions. The handler can have a total of 3 attempts at the screening with any particular animal.

Question: Can I become a Cornell Companions member if I do not own a pet?
Answer: I’m sorry but at this time the program only has volunteers with their own pets.

Question: When do I submit my animal health form?
Answer: This is done after you complete the handler training and your pet has successfully passed their screening.

Animal related questions

Question: I have a dog that I would love to train him for therapy work how can I enroll in your program?
Answer: Cornell Companions does not provide training, we recommend that you take your dog to one of the local dog classes and procced to train him/her ideally to the level of Canine Good Citizen.

Question: I have a 9 month old dog that is excellent with children and I’d like to screen him to be a Cornell companions animal.
Answer: Dogs (and cats) need to be at least 1 year old and to have been owned by the current owner for a minimum of 6 months to be eligible for the program.

Question: I have a goat who I and also my veterinarian believe would be an excellent therapy animal, does Cornell Companions take small ruminants into the program?
Answer: Yes we do have a couple of goats in the program. We would be happy to have you go through the handler training and then be screened with your goat. There are some issues with visiting with animals like goats due to the fact that when nervous/stressed they will defecate and urinate-sometimes multiple times and large volumes! The handler needs to be able to demonstrate that they are aware of this and have a plan in place. Even if the animal wears a diaper, it still means there may be accidents and hence some facilities will not want these species visiting. Ideally the handler should know prior to screening if the facility they have identified is ok with a goat visiting.

Question: My dog eats a raw diet can he be part of Cornell companions?
Answer: No. Dogs that eat a raw diet or get raw treats cannot be a part of Cornell companions.

Question: Does my animal have to have a medical examination? Who pays for it?
Answer: Yes as we are sharing our animals with the public, some of whom may have compromised immune systems it is important that we minimize the risk of transmitting diseases or parasites. Pets need to be examined by a licensed veterinarian and our medical form filled out (it includes the need for
a fecal).  The owner has to pay for the medical examination, however in most cases the information obtained from the pet’s yearly examination should be adequate.

Question: Does my pet have to be vaccinated for anything?
Answer: Yes a copy of the current rabies certificate is required for all animals except birds. The facility you visit will probably ask for a copy of the certificate too.

Handler related questions

Question: My twelve year old daughter would like to become part of Cornell companions with her dog; how do we proceed.
Answer: Cornell Companions allows children as young as 13 years to be a part of the program. However if under the age of 18 years they need to be accompanied by a parent/guardian who is a Cornell companions member. The child needs to take the handler training but does not need to participate in the pet screening as they will not be the pet’s handler at visits. Hospice and Cayuga Medical Center have their own guidelines and no one from our program under the age of 18 years may visit.

Question: I am a therapist and want to use my dog in my work. Will becoming part of Cornell companions allow me to do that?
Answer: No, by becoming a volunteer with Cornell companions you are only allowed to use the pet that passed the screening with you at visits that are specifically sanctioned by our program.

Question: If I become a Cornell companions’ volunteer and join the group that visits the hospital can I visit whenever it is convenient for me to go?
Answer: No, Cornell Companions volunteers may only visit facilities that Cornell companions visits at the times that have been specifically assigned.

Question: Do the handlers have to fulfill any medical requirements?
Answer: most facilities require the handler to receive either a ‘flu vaccination or wear a mask when visiting during the ‘flu season. Some require a TB test. To visit the Cayuga Medical center and Hospice volunteers have to fulfil more medical requirements at their own expense.