Role and Purpose of Certified Assistance Dog Teams: Professional therapy dogs certified with their owners/handlers as certified assistance dog teams provide emotional and physical support in educational settings. These highly trained dogs model good behavior, tolerance, and acceptance. All certified assistance dog teams in the Linn-Mar Community School District work to support and positively influence student achievement.
Definition, Certification, and Approval for Use of Therapy Dogs: Professional therapy dogs are trained and tested to provide specific physical or therapeutic functions under the direction and control of a qualified handler who works with the dog as a team, and as part of the handler’s occupation or profession. A professional therapy dog has been temperament tested by a trainer affiliated with an organization recognized as qualified to perform temperament testing. Therapy dogs, along with their handlers, perform services in institutional settings, community-based group settings, or with individuals who have disabilities. Therapy dogs are not family pets that have been certified as pet therapy animals. Refer to page 3: Pet Visitation Dogs.
Professional therapy dogs have passed a public access test administered by a trainer/evaluator recognized by the Linn-Mar Community School District. Handlers and their dogs are administered the public access test for re-evaluation during their first year of service. The public access test may be administered by a trainer/evaluator recognized by the district.
Professional therapy dogs are owned by a professional educator in the district who wishes to use a therapy dog to augment their educational program. Professional therapy dogs may be used in school settings on a regular basis once the following documentation is in place:
- Administrative Approval: Refer to Policy 604.2-E1
- Use of a therapy dog must be approved by the building administrator in which the handler works. A letter stating administrator approval should be kept on file in the building in which the handler works and a copy sent to the Executive Director of Student Services.
- Vaccination, Health, and Grooming Requirements: Refer to Policy 604.2-E2
- The owner/handler must provide a record of annual vaccinations received by the therapy dog and signed by a licensed veterinarian. These health records should be kept on file in the building in which the handler works and a copy sent to the Executive Director of Student Services.
- The therapy dog should receive an annual Bordetella vaccination. Rabies and five-way Parvo/Distemper (DHPP) shall be administered every three years. Note: therapy dogs less than one year of age or receiving their rabies and parvo vaccinations for the first time shall receive a follow-up vaccine in one year with administration every three years thereafter.
- The therapy dog should receive an annual comprehensive wormer or fecal check.
- The therapy dog should be checked for external parasite control.
- Owners/handlers will administer preventative parasite (flea and tick) control and heartworm medication year-round. Annual tests for heartworms is recommended. Note: Frontline Plus is recommended due to its non-toxic nature which is important in a school environment.
- The therapy dog should be groomed and bathed regularly. For dogs in a working environment, monthly to bi-monthly baths are recommended as is daily brushing. Good judgment should be used based on the dog’s hair, skin, and dander concerns. The owner/handler must also ensure proper health care through regular brushing of the dog’s teeth (several times weekly), nail trims as needed, and weekly ear cleaning/checks.
- Public Access Test Documentation:
- A copy of the public access test certificate of completion should be kept on file in the building in which the handler works and a copy sent to the Executive Director of Student Services.
- Certification verifying that both the handler and therapy dog passed the public access test must be sent by the certifying institution directly to the Executive Director of Student Services.
- Records of advanced obedience, agility, or other trainings should be kept on file in the building in which the handler works and a copy sent to the Executive Director of Student Services.
- Review of Guidelines and Procedures:
- Guidelines and procedures for the use of professional therapy dogs will be reviewed annually with staff and students at the beginning of the academic year.
- Guidelines and procedures for the use of professional therapy dogs will be reviewed as needed throughout the year as determined by the building administrator, handler, and Executive Director of Student Services.
- The privilege to bring the therapy dog into the school setting may be terminated should the owner/handler or the dog behave in a way deemed unprofessional or unsafe.
- When a professional educator in the district uses a professional therapy dog according to the above guidelines, the building in which the handler works and the professional educator will be covered by the district’s general liability coverage.
Pet Visitation Dogs: A pet visitation dog is owned by a volunteer or student who is not employed by the Linn-Mar Community School District, but who has received registration and/or recognition for volunteer pet visitation. These dogs are not considered to be professional therapy dogs.
For a dog to be used on a volunteer basis these guidelines must be followed:
- If the handler of the dog is an employee of the district, the handler and dog must be certified under the professional therapy dog guidelines listed above.
- The dog may be used no more than one visitation per week for a two-hour interval. Should the dog be used more often or for longer periods the dog must pass all requirements for professional therapy dog status before it may be used in the schools.
The following documentation must be kept on file in the office of the Executive Director of Student Services and in the building in which the pet visitation dog is used:
- Current certification/registration from the therapy dog organization administering the evaluation and testing.
- Current veterinary records of worming schedules and annual vaccinations for five-way Parvo/Distemper (DHPP) and Bordetella, as well as rabies vaccinations every three years.
- Proof of insurance.
- Letter of approval from the building administrator.
If you have questions about the therapy dog program please contact:
Mrs. Leisa Breitfelder
Executive Director of Student Services
2999 N 10th Street, Marion, IA 52302
319-447-3003 / lbreitfelder@Linnmar.k12.ia.us
Related Policy (Code#): 604.2-E1-E2
Legal Reference (Code of Iowa): §216C; 29 USC §794; 42 USC §12132; 28 CFR 35
IASB Reference: 105; 606.3