To the Editor,
Today a woman came into my animal clinic with a large mixed breed dog and immediately let the dog’s leash go, stating in a loud voice, “this is a therapy dog and she loves everyone, she goes to the library, everywhere, and kids crawl all over her.” I stepped on the leash as the dog went by me and told her that not all dogs love each other and there could be a dog around the corner that wanted to hurt hers.
Upon talking with the woman, I discovered it was her daughter’s dog and had come to live with her (supposedly the dog was a registered therapy dog with the daughter).
What a certified therapy dog is:
A therapy dog is a dog that has been evaluated/tested and registered as a handler/dog team by a group such as Pet Partner’s (formerly Delta Society), Therapy Dogs International (TDI), Baylor Hospital system has their own group of certified therapy dogs.
Therapy dogs are people’s personal pets, pets that have been living with the handler and their temperaments are well known.
These dogs are tested with the handler as to the bond the team has, the understanding between them, and a number of other factors that make them a good, responsible working team.
With Pet Partner’s (with whom I am a Licensed Evaluator and a Registered PetPartner with my dog), when you pass the education portion of the process (instructor lead class or online course) and pass the evaluation with your dog, you are insured, have guidelines, and as long as you follow those guidelines and act responsibly with your pet, you are a member in good standing.
I would say a very important part of being a pet handler is never letting your leash go. You must at all times know your dog/animal is safe and supported, and the people you are visiting are safe.
I hear of and read of many people visiting facilities with animals that are not certified by anyone, a lot of them are off leash and not well behaved.
The facilities that allow these untrained animals in should be made aware of problems that could arise, especially in schools, libraries and nursing facilities. There are so many good trained pet partners that the public needs to be aware of certified versus “a dog who loves everyone.”
Yes, they may be wonderful and perfect for visiting, but the handler needs to be “trained” as well. Therapy dogs must have annual vaccinations and before they are accepted by the groups mentioned above, they have a complete physical and OK from their veterinarian.
Therapy dogs are not allowed public access as Service/Assistance dogs are.
Therapy dogs are becoming widely sought after for all the love and comfort they give to people. A properly trained PetPartner couple (dog and handler) is a wonderful thing to behold.
PetPartner with Lemony Snicket