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Therapy Dogs: EJ

  • Support Services: E
Therapy Dogs: EJ

The school district supports the use of therapy dogs for the benefit of its students subject to the conditions of this policy. Benefits from working or visiting with a therapy dog include reduced stress, improved physical and emotional well-being, low blood pressure, decreased anxiety, improved self-esteem and normalization of the environment, increasing the likelihood of successful academic achievement by the student. Examples of activities that students may engage in with a therapy dog include petting and/or hugging the dog, speaking to the dog, giving the dog simple commands that the dog is trained to respond to, and reading to the dog.

Animal Assisted Therapy is a goal-driven intervention, which is directed and/or delivered by a mental health, health service provider, or education service professional and is meant to improve physical, social, emotional and/or cognitive function of an individual.

A therapy dog is a dog that has been individually trained, evaluated and registered with his/her handler to provide animal assisted activities, animal assisted therapy and animal assisted interactions within a school or other facility. Therapy dogs are not the same as “emotional support animals” or “service animals”. The dog must be well behaved and have a temperament that is suitable for interactions with students and others in a public school. Therapy dogs are personal property of the teacher or employee and are not owned by the school district. See associated “Therapy Dog - Guidelines”.

Therapy dogs are not the same as “emotional support animals” or “service animals”. Therapy dogs are considered a 27J supported intervention and this policy does not imply that students/families are allowed to utilize their own therapy dog/animal within the school setting or at school-sponsored activities.

The handler is an individual school district staff member or volunteer who has been individually trained, evaluated, and registered with the therapy dog to provide animal assisted activities, animal assisted therapy, and animal assisted interactions within a school or other facility.

Request and Registration

The following information will be kept current and submitted to the building Principal and Superintendent.

  1. Owner Request. In 27J a therapy dog can be owned by anyone, however only 27J mental health personnel will be allowed to be certified to use therapy dogs in 27J schools.
  2. Therapy Dog Registration. The therapy dog shall have registration from an organization that requires an evaluation of the therapy dog and handler at least every two years and shall remain current and in good standing at all times.
  3. Handler Registration. Proof of registration as a therapy dog handler with the individual therapy dog to be used (Note: Such registration shall be from an organization that requires an evaluation of the therapy dog and handler prior to registration and at least every two years). Therapy Dog Standards and Procedures.

Therapy Dog Standards and Procedures

The following requirements must be satisfied before a therapy dog will be allowed in school buildings or on school grounds:

  1. Registration: The therapy dog shall have registration from an organization that requires an evaluation of the therapy dog and handler at least every two years and shall remain current and in good standing at all times.
  2. Health and Vaccination. The therapy dog must be clean, well groomed, in good health, house broken, and immunized against diseases common to dogs. The Owner must submit proof of current licensure from the local licensing authority and proof of the therapy dog’s current vaccinations and immunizations from a licensed veterinarian.
  3. Control. The handler shall ensure that the therapy dog wears a collar or harness and a leash no longer than six feet and shall maintain control of the therapy dog by holding the leash at all times that the therapy dog is out in school crowds. There should be a kennel/crate where the dog can be placed when not with the handler. The dog must be under the control of the handler or in the crate/kennel at all times that it is on district property including during breaks, unless holding such leash would interfere with the therapy dog’s safety, effective performance of its work or tasks. However, the handler shall maintain control of the therapy dog at all times and shall not tether the therapy dog to any individual or object.
  4. Identification. The therapy dog must have appropriate identification identifying it as a therapy dog.
  5. No Disruption. The therapy dog must not disrupt the educational process by barking, seeking attention, or any other behavior.
  6. Health and Safety. The therapy dog must not pose a health and safety risk to any student, employee, or other person at school.
  7. Supervision and Care of Therapy dogs. The Owner is solely responsible for the supervision and care of the therapy dog, including any feeding, exercising, and clean up while the animal is in a school building or on school property. The school district is not responsible for providing any care, supervision, or assistance for a therapy dog.
  8. Authorized Area(s). The Owner shall only allow the therapy dog to be in areas in school buildings or on school property that are authorized by school district administrators.
  9. Insurance. The Owner must submit a copy of an insurance policy that provides liability coverage for the therapy dog while on school property.
  10. Allergic Reactions & Aversions. The handler shall remove the therapy dog to a separate area, as designated by the school administrator, in such instances where any student or school employee who suffers dog allergies or aversion is present in an office, hallway, or classroom. The school will notify parents at the beginning of each year about the presence of the therapy dog to determine students that have allergies/aversions and the severity of the allergies/aversion.
  11. Damages to School Property and Injuries. The Owner of a therapy dog is solely responsible and liable for any damage to school property or injury to personnel, students, or others caused by the therapy dog.

Exclusion or Removal from School

A therapy dog may be excluded from school property and buildings if a school administrator determines that:

  1. A handler does not have control of the therapy dog;
  2. The therapy dog is not housebroken;
  3. The therapy dog presents a direct and immediate threat to others in the school; or
  4. The animal’s presence otherwise interferes with the educational process.

The Owner shall be required to remove the therapy dog from school premises immediately upon such a determination.

Therapy dog in Training. This policy shall also be applicable to therapy dogs in training that are accompanied by a bona fide trainer.

Therapy Dog Guidelines

**See Policy EJ - Therapy Dogs for additional requirements and guidance.

Therapy Dog Teams: Therapy dogs work with a staff member with a mental health background that will incorporate animal-assisted interventions into their work to meet clearly-defined treatment goals (e.g. increasing emotion regulation, learning assertiveness skills, etc.). These dogs are NOT afforded any special privileges - This dog's job is to help OTHERS, and not their owner. This is not just being able to bring your dog to work.

  • Therapy dogs must be certified with a mental health professional in the building. The dog DOES NOT have to belong to the MH professional but their must be a certified team with them at all times while on 27J property.
  • Therapy dogs are used for targeted MH/SEL purposes such as:
    • Groups/Ind - anxiety, expression, loss, anger management, social skills, assertiveness training, etc.
    • Classroom work - Team Building, norm setting, awareness of social cues, etc.
    • Crisis-calming
    • Attendance support (student comes in and brushes the dog when the student is on their time).

Therapy dogs must have access to:

  • Food & water
  • Potty breaks throughout the day
  • A crate - to allow them a place to be away from others when they need to be due to dog aversion/allergies
  • See Policy EJ for specifics.

In order to make sure a therapy dog is a good fit for your building, you must complete and think about the following prior:

  • Hear/address concerns of staff.
  • Hear/address concerns of parents and students.
    • One guideline is that students DO NOT need to be around the therapy dog if they don’t feel comfortable.
    • Understand the level of allergy or aversion.
      • Can the person not be in the same building, room, can not touch etc?
        • What is the typical and worst reaction this person has had to a dog in the past?
  • Set clear boundaries/expectations for how students and staff will interact with the dog.
  • Make sure the therapy dog is ALWAYS on a leash and with the handler when outside of the handlers office.
  • Be aware of the therapy dogs cues for anxiety/fear.
  • Understand the hours that it takes to certify and care for the dog is the persons responsibility.
  • These hours are considered volunteer hours and will not be deducted from work hours or supplemented with additional pay.
  • Veterinarian appointments are on your own time, not during school hours or supplemented with additional pay.