Happy Tails Mission Statement

Happy Tails volunteers share the unconditional love of their pets with people of all ages with physical, social, emotional, and cognitive needs at healthcare facilities, social agencies, and special needs programs.

About Us - Overview

A young boy in the hospital, temporarily confined to a wheelchair due to multiple injuries, smiles for the first time in several weeks as the small dog is placed in his lap to greet him with healing kisses.

In another location, residents of an assisted living facility eagerly greet their team of regular visitors, a pair of dogs and a cat, escorted by their owners.

These are the “happy tales” that are created nearly every day in metro Atlanta when teams of Happy Tails volunteers and their pet dogs, cats and rabbits visit area hospitals, children’s programs and centers, rehabilitation centers, shelters, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, mental health facilities, respite care centers, hospice facilities, and special-needs programs.

Happy Tails Pet Therapy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Happy Tails volunteers share the unconditional love of their pets with people of all ages with physical, social, emotional and cognitive needs at healthcare facilities, social agencies and special needs programs throughout the metro Atlanta community.

Dr. Carla Courtney, an Atlanta veterinarian, founded Happy Tails in 1991 based on research supporting the positive effects of animal-assisted therapy and the power of the human-animal bond. With a vision that this service should be provided to patients in the Atlanta community, Happy Tails was born. Happy Tails has grown dramatically from a few dedicated volunteers and their pets visiting three facilities, to a membership of more than 350 volunteers who regularly visit over 125 facilities in the metropolitan Atlanta area, with many more facilities eagerly awaiting visitations.

Happy Tails is a group of pet owners with a common goal - to volunteer time to share the unconditional love and joy pets can give to patients and residents at a variety of facilities. To participate in Happy Tails, all pets must have a recent veterinary examination and meet specific animal health requirements. In addition, volunteers with dogs must have completed a basic obedience course with their pet. Before beginning visits with their pet, volunteers must attend orientation, pet/handler evaluation, volunteer training and attend at least one observation visit at a current client facility without their pet. Happy Tails also schedules a variety of workshops to members throughout the year in an effort to enhance client visits.

Many members not only volunteer their time, but also support Happy Tails by serving in a variety of areas that are essential to the organization, such as helping with pet evaluations, serving as volunteer trainers, and helping with efforts to recruit new members. Members provide their own transportation to visits as well as purchase their own Happy Tails apparel. Upon completion of all requirements, volunteers receive a member identification badge and pets receive a membership collar tag and Happy Tails bandana.

While volunteers pay a nominal annual membership fee of $35/individual and $45/family, this is not enough to cover all of the administrative costs associated with such a large organization. As membership increases, costs to process applications, evaluate and train new members and provide continuing education for membership also increase.

Happy Tails is funded by charitable donations. We seek the support of our community in the form of donations and in-kind goods or services. Donations are tax deductible and will help Happy Tails continue to serve our community.