Without a responsible handler overseeing the dog and human interactions, there are too many opportunities for the dog and the recipients to be harmed either intentionally or unintentionally.
All dogs/animals whether they are therapy dogs or just your family’s companion dog have rights to lead a happy healthy life that meets their species-specific behavioral, emotional, and physical needs.
Be it within the more traditional healthcare model or pet therapy health models we must ensure all participants are whole and safe.
As referenced in the Frakes’ article, below is a Therapy Dog Bill of Rights (created by Ann Howie LICSW) in an effort to define and ensure optimal care for these therapy dogs who we are relying on to assist us in our own healing:
Therapy Dog Bill of Rights ©
As a therapy animal, I have the right to a handler who:
- Obtains my consent to participate in the work
- Provided gentle training to help me understand what I’m supposed to do
- Is considerate of my perception of the world
- Helps me adapt to the work environment
- Guides the client, staff, and visitors to interact with me appropriately
- Focuses on me as much as the client, staff and visitors
- Pays attention to my non-verbal cues
- Takes action to reduce my stress
- Supports me with interactions with the client
- Protects me from over work by limiting the length of the sessions
- Gives me ways to relax after the sessions
- Provides me with a well-rounded life with nutritious food, physical and emotional exercise, social time, and activities beyond work
- Responds to my desire to retire from work when I think it is time
Now the hard part.
Now is the time we must honor the Therapy Dog Bill of Rights, as we also honor the Patient Bill of Rights, the Nurse Bill of Rights (developed by the ANA), and when and if created, a Doctor and Healthcare Worker Bill of Rights.
Now is the time we ensure all participants within the health and healthcare system are whole, safe, and best positioned for optimal outcomes.
Now is the time we stop harming those we entrust to care for us.
Now is the time we care for one another with compassion and respect and together heal.
Now is the time.