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 the therapy dog and the participant.
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 the therapy dog during the session, 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 the therapy dog. 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 the therapy dog
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, the therapy dog 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 the therapy dog 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 the therapy dog so that this does not occur
7. All patients must either wash their hands, use hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes before and after touching the therapy dog
8. The therapy dog will be well groomed before every therapy session. Although every effort will be made to cut and file the therapy dog's nails, scratching may occur while physically interacting with the dog. Lauren cannot be held liable for injuries incurred by the therapy dog'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. The therapy dog 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 the therapy dog
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 the therapy dog.
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. The therapy dog cannot be used in therapy without Lauren present. No other provider, unless credentialed and previously approved by Lauren, can handle or use the therapy dog in a therapeutic capacity
13. Patients are never to be left alone with the therapy dog
14. If at any time, the therapy dog 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 the therapy dog during these times. Lauren will assess and determine whether it is safe for the therapy dog 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 the therapy dog is allowed to determine if and when to participate in therapy/interact with others. While it may be planned to use the therapy dog in a scheduled therapy session, the dog will never be forced to interact should she indicate signs of distress and/or resistance
16. The therapy dog 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, the therapy dog 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.