By Kathi Jo Zornes
There are many wonderful health and educational benefits to therapy animal visits. Provided to the public without charge by caring organizations and individuals with trained and registered dogs, cats, rabbits, and other animals, visits are excellent for bringing companionship to residents in nursing facilities, assisting with children’s reading programs at public libraries and elementary schools, teaching animal safety and compassion, easing stress during finals week at colleges, as well as many other useful services.
Interested in scheduling a therapy animal visit for your facility? Here’s how to do it:
1. Contact a therapy animal organization that is reputable in having trained and tested therapy dog teams, and whose dogs are covered under insurance for such a visit: Delta Society (dogs), Therapy Dogs International, Inc. (dogs), Pet Partners (dogs, cats, rabbits, etc.), Love on a Leash (dogs, cats, rabbits,etc.) and so forth. All of these, organizations have websites where you can access information and make request for visits.
2. Provide the organization your contact information, facility location, and tell them what you are seeking. In return, the organization will send an email out to all therapy animal teams within your area to notify them of your request and will ask them to respond.
3. Be persistent; if you don’t hear back from the organization within a week or so, contact them and make your request again. Sometimes it takes time for teams to check their schedules and make sure they can commit to visiting your facility before you hear from them.
4. Once a team has contacted you, schedule a meeting to get to know them, see if the therapy animal is suitable for the type of visiting you are requesting, and exchange credentials and contact information. Although the therapy animal team should know to do this ahead of time, be sure to request that they bring you a copy of their animal’s current therapy badge, insurance cover letter, and vaccination certificate from their licensed veterinarian for your file on record at your facility.
Be aware that legitimate therapy animal visiting is a free volunteer service that these teams agree to provide; therapy animal teams cannot charge any fees for their visiting. Because it is strictly volunteer, the therapy animal team decides how often and when they wish to come to the facility and can cease visits at any time.
Animals can make all the difference in the days and lives of the humans they meet. If your organization or place of work might benefit from therapy animal visits, consider reaching out to a team.
Kathi Jo Zornes is a freelance writer who has successfully trained and worked with dogs in the public since 2005. She has an Associates in Natural Science cum laude from Shawnee State University and is an AKC Canine Ambassador, AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, Therapy Dogs International Evaluator, and has Pet CPR & First Aid certification. She is President of the Southern Ohio All Breed Dog Club, Inc., Board Member of the German Shepherd Dog Club of Central Ohio, Inc, member of Licking River Kennel Club and others where she teaches training classes, hosts evaluations and gives dog safety presentations for children in Ohio. Kathi Jo lives in Rarden, Ohio where she resides with her husband, two children and beloved therapy dog Beck.