Side Menu
Volunteers working at a meeting event

Do you have a pet that would make a wonderful H.A.B.I.T. pet? Maybe you enjoy bringing a smile to someone’s face? We are always glad to have another smiling face (human or pet) to help out! Just take a look at some of things that we ask for below and let us know.

You can also watch our video for more information. Once you have watched this video please email HABIT@utk.edu with the magic word and ask for the needed forms. We will then email you the forms to complete and return to us.

Please email questions to H.A.B.I.T. 

1. Watch the New Volunteer Video

All potential volunteers are required to watch the video.

2. Application and Membership Dues

Applications, membership dues, and how to access all needed forms are explained in the video posted above. If you still have questions, please contact the office at habit@utk.edu or phone 865-974-5633 to be sent a current membership application.

Interested in becoming a member, but not sure about volunteering?

You are welcome to remain on our mailing list as a HABIT friend. However, you must still submit an application and pay dues. You will be notified of any special programs or activities sponsored by HABIT. You would be welcome to complete the steps toward volunteer status at any time or just remain a “friend” Informal meetings of volunteers and friends of HABIT are arranged periodically. These are times for sharing experiences and often includes a speaker. Recent speakers have provided tips on grooming and obedience training. 

3. Have Animal(s) Medically and Behaviorally Screened 

If you have a pet of your own that you would like to take on visits, there is a place on the application for information about your pet. However, pets must be medically and behaviorally screened before they can visit. 

Medical Evaluation Form 

Copies of this form are available at the General Information Meeting or can be mailed to you from the HABIT Office. This form is usually completed from your vet’s records if your pet has been seen in the last 3-months. (It is the owner’s responsibility to get the application to your vet as well as submit the form to the HABIT office) If you have more than one pet you would like evaluated, the Medical Evaluation Form can be copied. Each pet needs their own form. A cover letter to your veterinarian is available to explain the program in case he/she is not familiar with HABIT. If it has been longer than that, or if your pet is not up to date on its shots, a visit to your vet will be necessary. 

Behavioral Profile And History Form 

(the Behavioral Evaluation starts with this form)

  • Copies of this form are available at the information meeting or can be mailed to you from the HABIT Office
  • This form must be filled-out by the owner  

Both the Medical Evaluation and Behavioral Profile & History forms must be on file before an actual behavioral evaluation can be done. 

The Behavioral Evaluation 

  • Usually done at the UT College of Veterinary Medicine
  • A copy of the Behavioral Evaluation Form will be available at the training meeting
  • You will be contacted by a UT veterinarian for a behavioral evaluation appointment for your pet after the Medical Evaluation Form has been received.
  • If your veterinarian chooses to do the behavioral evaluation, he/she should contact the HABIT Office (865) 974-5633 to get copies of the forms.
  • There is a form for dogs and a separate one for cats. If you have other pets which may be good for visits, please contact Dr. John New at the College of Veterinary Medicine.  

If you would like to be a HABIT Volunteer, but do not have a pet, or don’t have an appropriate pet, a few animals are available for loan. Special arrangements must be made to use these animals, and the volunteer is responsible for picking up the pet and returning it. All these animals have been medically and behaviorally screened. Contact the HABIT office for more information on loaner animals. 

4. After Completing the Behavioral Evaluation, You Will Be Contacted By A Volunteer Coordinator 

The Volunteer Coordinator will discuss with you the various ongoing programs and arrange a time for you to visit a facility. 

5. Observe an Experienced Volunteer with the Animal During A Scheduled Visit 

Do not bring your animal to the observation. Arrangements will be made by HABIT. (Steps 5. and 6. may be done at the same time.) 

6. Visit a Designated Facility For An Orientation Tour & Discussion With Facility Contact Person 

This visit is done without a pet and will give you the opportunity to meet staff and take an tour of the facility. (Steps 5. and 6. may be done at the same time.) 

7. Be Observed With Your Pet By An Experienced Volunteer 

After your pet has completed the screening, it can make its first visit with you under the supervision of an experienced volunteer. This first visit should be a short one. The main purpose of the formal screening is to help assure your pet is healthy and safe. However, the real test is when the pet visits the facility. It is important to see how the pet reacts in a strange environment. We want the visit to be a positive experience for the volunteer and the pet. Be aware that some pets are just too stressed by visits and cannot continue to visit for their own good. Your HABIT representative may accompany you on additional visits if they feel it would be helpful.   Please realize that you and your animal will be accepted as HABIT volunteers only after all steps are taken and positively evaluated. We also appreciate your patience in realizing that HABIT is administered by volunteers. We will evaluate your animals and work with you on placement as soon as possible.   

Individuals who have completed all the steps required of volunteers will receive liability coverage by the University of Tennessee. There is no cost for this coverage. Please include your social security number on your application since liability coverage must be filed by name and social security number. If you are 16 years old or younger, HABIT policy requires that you be accompanied by an adult on all visits with your pet. Some facilities have more restrictive requirements regarding age.   

  • Maintain a positive attitude. We are there to promote therapeutic change, not just to entertain.
  • Dress appropriately as defined by the facility and be on time.
  • Be willing to listen, cooperate, and communicate with residents, facility contact person, head volunteer and program maintenance committee representative.
  • Sign in and record number of residents visited each week.  
  1. Be responsible for your animal:
  2. Keep animal clean, well-groomed, free of external parasites.
  3. Make sure animal is wearing a clean HABIT scarf.
  4. Have control of animal at all times. Dogs should be on a short lead.
  5. Keep an eye on animal while conversing.
  6. Recognize stress in animal and remove immediately. Be the animals’ advocate.
  7. Be aware of items on floor.
  8. Let animals interact outside.
  9. Do not visit if your animal is ill or behaving inappropriately.
  10. Take your commitment seriously. Notify the facility contact person and either the HABIT head volunteer or Program Maintenance Committee member as soon as possible if you cannot make a scheduled visit.
  11. Respect the rights of residents and staff.
  12. Attend annual HABIT meeting.
  13. If approached about publicity, please contact the HABIT office first (865-974-5633).

To become a member please send, along with your application​, a check for $35/$50 for membership dues. 

  • Membership Dues
    $40 Single Membership or $60 Family Membership
    (No charge for behavioral evaluations)
  • Please make checks payable to: HABIT
  • Please mail application ALONG with check to:
         Department of Comparative Medicine
         2407 River Drive
         Knoxville, TN 37996