OCSPCA Education and Therapy Dog Program

Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS)

PAWS is our pet assisted therapy program that travels throughout Orange County. 

Dog and Serviceman Our more than 125 volunteers and their dogs spend time at nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, hospice and children’s homes to help bring joy and encouragement to the disabled, bedridden and neglected.We have monthly visits to more than 24 facilities in Orange County including nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, hospice and children’s homes and programs. The program is an amazing opportunity for you to experience the human-animal bond by sharing your pet, and to touch the lives of these very special people. The rewards are mutual for the handlers, dogs and residents alike. Results are often not miraculous but subtle, simple smiles, warming a room where there was no hope, and delivering warmth and love to those who desperately need it. These small gestures of love and acceptance that only our pets can deliver often are the highlight of their day or even week and the residents eagerly await our monthly return. Through PAWS and the amazing bond created between dog and human,  the effect is undoubtedly positive and healing. 

Are you interested in having the PAWS program visit your facility or office?

If you are a Health Care Facility, Hospital, Assisted living, Adult, or children’s facility or Corporation interested in having our amazing PAWS teams visit with your clients or staff, please click here PAWS visit information for facilities, events and business

Who can participate in PAWS?

Do you have a special dog that you would like to share? Do you have some spare time each month to give back to the Orange County community? We would love to have you join us! Volunteers who over 18 years of age, and who have a well behaved and compatible family pet are welcome to learn more about hoe to become a member of our team! There is a $40 membership fee collected at Orientation, and if you and your dog pass the evaluation, there will be a program fee of $70-$100 which includes a program registration, volunteer program manual, shirt, scarf and ID tag for your dog. Program participants will complete a multi-step process, and all steps must be completed in order to be eligible for the assessment.

Teams will need to complete the following:

  • OCSPCA program orientation (without your dog) – Learn about the OCSPCA and our work as a dedicated Orange County animal welfare organization and our programs, including PAWS
  • Dog Observation & Training – Attend a 2 hour session where our team gets to meet and work with you and your dog, preparing you for assessment process
  • Assessment Testing – You and your dog will be thoroughly evaluated using a 25 point test
  • Handling and Program Class -teams who successfully pass the assessment testing will attend a class to learn about program rules, policy and handling techniques and protocol to help them prepare for visits
  • Written Test – Written testing on program policy and protocol
  • Background Investigation screening – All volunteers will be carefully screened through a background investigation

Teams will then complete a four-month probation period working at a facility for adults and then can move forward with a two-month probation at a facility for children. The entire process takes about 8-10 months to complete, and the rewards come in the form of the big smiles from the residents’ and patients’ faces.When the required probation is completed, volunteer/pet teams will become eligible to participate in the PAWS, Kindness Kids and Canine Literacy programs, including dozens of special event opportunities throughout the year. We look forward to meeting you and working with your dog!

Program and Volunteer Requirements:  Volunteers must be at least eighteen years of age, and the owner of a program compatible family pet dog. Dogs must be able to interact with and work in close proximity to other dogs and breeds of all sizes. The OCSPCA PAWS program does not certify nor allow dogs to attend individual visits. Teams always visit in groups at designated facility locations and times.  Volunteers must be able to commit to a minimum of one visit per month (approximately 90 minutes) as well as participate in at least two special event visits or OCSPCA community events. You must be willing to comply with OCSPCA/PAWS policies and protocols, and have a friendly demeanor. All volunteers must maintain OCSPCA membership, due annually in January to remain in good standing.

Dog Requirements:  Dogs must be one year of age or older. The owner must have owned the dog (having had the dog living with you) for at least 6 months and the dog must be spayed/neutered, fully housebroken, and proficient in obedience. The dog must be in good health, able to walk on its own and must be a family pet. Service Dogs, ESA or ESD (emotional support animals) or comfort dogs are not eligible to become a Therapy Dog. The dog must be able to work in stressful  and often crowded environments,  and all dogs must be able to work with and interact with other dogs. Dogs must have a desire to visit and seek attention from people (no signs of fear, shyness, resentment or aggression). Dogs may not bark, jump up on people, paw at them or cause other disruptions. Dog treats/toys or other bait items including clickers are prohibited while on a visit as they can become a distraction for other dogs. All dogs must be current on vaccinations for Rabies and DHPP (Distemper). We reserve the right to request certificate of health from a licensed veterinarian.

When is the next Orientation for PAWS?

Orientations for potential new OCSPCA PAWS program volunteers are held 3 times each year.  You may request to be added to the list and be included for the next program session. Space tends to fill very quickly and program space is limited, so please email us right away if you are interested in being added to the list. Registration for the next program opens once all program dates are confirmed program slots fill up fast.

Our Next Orientation is Scheduled for Wednesday, September 25th at 7:00PM

Please email us at: info@ocspca.com for information or to inquire about registration.


Where should I go for therapy dog training?

There are many options for therapy dog training, and we do recommend working with the Zoom Room in Huntington Beach if possible. You can find info on the Zoom Room’s therapy dog training here. When choosing any training program, it is essential to observe a training session without your dog- ask questions and make sure that the trainer, his or her reputation and experience to help you make an informed decision on whether the program is right for you and your dog. Remember dog training is more about owner conditioning and responsibility! While trainer certifications and affiliations are always something to consider, they should not be the only criteria when choosing a trainer. It is important to ask for references, inquire about methods and above all -look for results! We are working to compile additional training locations, check back soon!