The demand for pet-assisted therapy in schools continues to grow, and PetPalsNC needs additional pet therapy Teams to meet this need. Currently we serve schools in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange County school districts, but we are regularly adding more schools. PetPalsNC does not train animals nor offer therapy animal certification. In order to work in schools, the pet and handler must already be certified/registered by one of several recognized pet therapy organizations such as Pet Partners, Love on a Leash, Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Therapy Dog International, and others.

If you and your pet are currently a certified pet therapy team, and you are interested in joining PetPals, please contact us so that we might get in touch with you to discuss and answer any questions. You can also read our Volunteer Agreement to see the guidelines that our volunteer handlers agree to follow.

If you are seeking training or certification, please refer to the Resources section for a listing of some of the options for training in the Triangle area and for pet therapy certifying organizations. Please contact us if you have any questions. But, first, before you begin this process, you and your pet should meet the following general criteria (please note: while dogs are referenced below, other animals can be certified by certain organizations and could also be candidates to work in the schools with PetPalsNC).

Dog Requirements:

  • Can be any breed or mixture
  • Has good disposition, people-oriented, sociable, and friendly
  • Has reliable, basic obedience skills
  • Is physically healthy and keeps up-to-date on recommended vaccinations and other requirements
  • Remains calm in stressful situations
  • Is non-aggressive towards animals and people
  • Is comfortable being touched

Handler Requirements:

  • Much like the dog, the handler must be like people and be friendly and polite in social interactions!
  • Able to advocate for their animal at all times
  • Knows their pet very well, able to predict behavior and re-direct when necessary
  • Able to facilitate interactions – it’s about the pet!
  • Takes instruction and follow rules of the facility and of the certifying organization
  • Able to understand and honor confidentiality and maintain personal boundaries

Resources for Certification in NC (Triangle & Triad regions):

This list is not exhaustive, but these are the organizations that are well-known, with tests and/or courses in this area. Consult the main websites for general information about pet therapy, info on prerequisites, test requirements, registration fees, as well as testing dates that are currently scheduled in various areas (these fill up quickly!). Some have videos of test components. The organizations each have differing requirements and procedures leading to certification, but some features are similar. Pets must be at least one year, must have suitable aptitude and personality, and possess at least basic obedience skills (these see training list below), and the handler should be a good advocate of, and work well with, his/her pet.

Dog Training Facilities (Triangle and Triad):

This is a partial listing of businesses that have been suggested by others. Some offer therapy dog classes and/or Canine Good Citizen Classes, a good prep for a therapy dog evaluation. A good facility should employ positive, reward-based training techniques. If you have additional recommendations, please send information.

Others NC Locations:

Additional Information/Articles about Pet-Assisted Therapy and its Benefits:


This information is provided by PetPalsNC, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports pet-assisted therapy for children and adolescents in public schools. When you and your pet are certified, please reach out to us if you would like to do rewarding work with kids who have challenges (social, academic, emotional, behavioral, etc). We currently have pet-therapy teams in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Orange County Schools, and hope to be expanding into other areas soon.

Contact: Wendy Stewart, MSW, LCSW – Executive Director,

Phone  |  Email

If your school is interested in bringing pet-assisted therapy to your students, please click Connect and send us your contact information and comments/questions. There is no cost to participate, but we do require that the school provides a liaison for PetPalsNC (usually the school social worker and/or school counselor), and that he/she and the school principal agree to and sign a Memorandum of Agreement which defines the expectations for the liaison, the school, and for PetPals. We currently have volunteer therapy Teams in the following schools, and, as we recruit additional volunteers, we will be able to serve more schools.

Participating Schools:

  • Pathways Elementary School (Orange County)
  • Cameron Park Elementary School (Orange County)
  • Efland Cheeks Elementary School (Orange County)
  • New Hope Elementary School (Orange County)
  • Central Elementary School (Orange County)
  • Hillsborough Elementary School (Orange County)
  • Grady Brown Elementary School (Orange County)
  • CW Stanford Middle School (Orange County)
  • AL Stanback Middle School (Orange County)
  • Rashkis Elementary School (Chapel Hill-Carrboro)
  • McDougle Elementary School (Chapel Hill-Carrboro)
  • Phillips Middle School (Chapel Hill-Carrboro)
  • Culbreth Middle School (Chapel Hill-Carrboro)
  • The Expedition School (Charter School)