Policies, Procedures, and Risks for Working with Animals in Therapy

Although working with animals, specifically canines, in a therapeutic setting has many benefits, there are risks associated with the intervention. Because AAT utilizes a live animal, it is important to note in advance the policies and procedures needed to maximize the intervention and ensure a safe work environment, both for Ruby and the participant.

  1. Participation in AAT is not guaranteed and will be based on Lauren’s assessment. If the assessment determines the patient is not a good fit, other treatment options will be discussed and appropriate referrals may be made

       a. If a history or indication of animal abuse or other risk factors are present, Lauren will determine whether participation in AAT is appropriate.

       b. Should a patient become aggressive (hits, kicks, bites, pulls, pinches, etc.) towards Ruby during therapy, Lauren will determine if it is appropriate to continue therapy or make the appropriate referrals and end the session. The session will still be charged in full. 

  2.  Anyone wishing to participate in AAT should be screened for allergies before working with Ruby. All allergies must be reported before beginning treatment so the proper precautionary measures can be taken. Should documentation from a medical professional indicate that allergies, skin or respiratory sensitivities, or other medical conditions exist, Lauren will determine if it is appropriate to continue therapy or make the appropriate referrals. Lauren cannot be held liable for allergic or other physiological reactions to Ruby

  3.  Any fear of dogs must be reported before therapy commences so the proper precautionary measures can be taken and the correct fit determined

  4.  If sick or injured, Ruby will not be able to provide services until the illness or injury subsides or upon veterinary approval, as sickness or injury could negatively impact the animal’s behaviour

  5.  Although Ruby will remain current on her vaccinations and health screenings, there is always a slight risk of zoonotic disease transmission (i.e., the sharing of diseases between animals and humans) when working with an animal. Every effort will be made by Lauren to reduce the risk of zoonosis

  6.  Direct contact with the animal’s urine, stool, and/or blood should be avoided. Every effort will be made by Lauren to educate/model for the patient and/or guardian appropriate ways to physically engage with Ruby so that this does not occur

  7.  All patients must either wash their hands, use hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes before and after touching Ruby

  8.  Ruby will be well groomed before every therapy session. Although every effort will be made to cut and file Ruby’s nails, scratching may occur while physically interacting with the dog. Lauren cannot be held liable for injuries incurred by Ruby's nails.

  9.  Dogs play or show affection by licking or nibbling, which may result in oral contact from the dog. Although every effort will be made by Lauren to monitor this, there is a risk for light biting or zoonotic disease transmission to occur when a dog makes oral contact with a person. Ruby will be allowed to lick the patient upon obtaining the patient’s and/or guardian’s verbal permission. This will be noted in the patient’s file. Lauren cannot be held liable for injury or zoonotic disease transmission as a result of oral contact from Ruby

  10.  Dogs use their body to communicate and may brush against or lean into a person. Other body language such as tail wagging or body wiggling may also occur. Such behaviors create a risk for loss of balance, falling, or light bruising. Lauren, cannot be held liable for injury incurred by physically engaging with Ruby.

  11.  The patient and/or guardian will promptly report all accidents and/or injuries to Lauren. Should injury occur, Lauren will respond accordingly and take proper action to help the patient get the appropriate medical care

  12.  Ruby cannot be used in therapy without Lauren present. No other provider, unless credentialed and previously approved by Lauren, can handle or use Ruby in a therapeutic capacity

  13.  Patients are never to be left alone with Ruby

  14.  If at any time, Ruby shows signs of distress, irritation, fear, or in any way acts in a negative manner, she will be allowed to take a break. No one, except Lauren, should touch or interact with Ruby during these times. Lauren will assess and determine whether it is safe for Ruby to return to the session

  15.  Animals, like people, have their own moods that determine their level of desire to interact with others. It is therefore understood that Ruby is allowed to determine if and when to participate in therapy/interact with others. While it may be planned to use Ruby in a scheduled therapy session, Ruby will never be forced to interact should she indicate signs of distress and/or resistance

  16.  Ruby will have a designated space in the patient’s room, where possible, where she is free to rest, sleep, or take a break without interruption

  17.  If Lauren and the patient agree, Ruby may work off leash, which will be noted in the patient’s file 

 18. Payment should be prompt and paid within the agreed time frame. Failure to do this may involve going through a third party to gather payment or going through the legal system at the customer's own cost. 

19. If a client is unhappy with the work provided, avenues to rectify this are available and payment for service still must be met or the above will go ahead to retrieve money owed.