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Ohio 4-H Youth Development

Ohio State University Extension


4-H PetPALS About

What is 4-H PetPALS?

4-H volunteers teach youth the skills needed to interact with residents in healthcare facilities, like assisted living and nursing home facilities, enhancing intergenerational relationships. Youth learn about the physical challenges associated with aging, as well as medical conditions they may encounter while visiting. They learn to communicate with residents, and gain an understanding of their rich histories, while becoming more compassionate and caring.

Young people learn to train and prepare their pets so they can participate in animal-assisted activities as a team. Youth learn about animal behavior, animal handling techniques and proper pet care. They gain a greater appreciation for their pet and form a stronger human-animal bond.

A 4-H PetPALS Documentary

CONGRATULATIONS to Athens County, Ohio 4-H member Emmy Beck-Aden for being awarded FIRST PLACE Documentary at the 2016 National 4-H FilmFest in Missouri. Her documentary is titled "Paws for Larger Service," highlighting the Ohio 4-H PetPALS program. This documentary is excellent to introduce 4-H members and volunteers to the Ohio 4-H PetPALS program.

Who is Involved?

4-H PetPALS allows young people to be models for residents in healthcare facilities and the community at-large. Everyone involved learns of the significance of human-companion animal interactions, as well as the importance of intergenerational relationships.

How to Become an Adult Volunteer

To become a Master 4-H PetPALS Volunteer Leader (in Ohio), you must first complete the requirements to be accepted as a 4-H volunteer leader. Volunteer applications are available from your Ohio county Extension office. 

Some experience in working with dogs, and/or cats, and other pets is necessary. And you must have a sincere interest in enhancing the lives of residents in assisted living and nursing homes through animal-assisted activities.

The minimum commitment for our program is at least two years. It involves a six-hour workshop to become trained as a Master 4-H PetPALS Volunteer Leader. It requires a purchased copy of our curriculum, to review and become familiar with prior to the training. Volunteers should then plan to spend four hours per month facilitating animal-assisted activities during 4-H meetings

How to Involve and Enroll Youth

The youth curriculum is designed as ten steps, to be taught and experienced in a minimum of ten meetings. The youth must have a suitable animal. Ownership of said animal is not required, however the youth must be associated with the animal long enough to form a bond.

A young person must:

  1. Be at least age 8 and enrolled in the third grade as of January 1 of the current year, and not over 18 years old. 4-H eligibility ends December 31 of the year in which an individual attains the age of 19.
  2. Either own a pet or have access to a pet:
    • Establishing the human-animal bond and forming that youth-pet team are very important in this project and the basis for successful completion.
    • Youth must have contact with the pet over a long enough time period to establish a positive bonding relationship with that animal
    • Dogs and cats must be at least one year old prior to the first visit to the healthcare facility.
    • Rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas must be at least six months old prior to the first visit to the healthcare facility.
  3. Enroll in a 4-H club with a Master 4-H PetPALS Volunteer Leader.
  4. Successfully complete the activities in the 4-H PetPALS curriculum.
  5. Make a commitment to visit healthcare facilities upon completion of the curriculum.