Dog Therapy Services Now Found In a Variety of Applications and Facilities
By Richard Katz
…….It used to be that passing your dog handler certification meant you were volunteering to take your dog to your local hospital or extended care facility, visiting with patients to help ease the emotional and physical pains associated with illness and aging.
But times have changed. Four environmental forces have broaden the demand for dog therapy services at facilities not commonly known:
–Growing scientific research, supported by empirical evidence and increased ability to measure physical changes in the human body (particularly your brain), validate the value of pet therapy in a variety of settings.
–Increased stress and mental illness have motivated institutional leaders, working at airports, courts, and schools, for example, to add pet therapy services to their operation.
–Professional mental health and social workers have embraced pet therapy as a useful and valid tool.
–Mental health workers in other countries view pet therapy services as a requirement, not an option, thereby paying handlers for their time and expenses and institutionalizing the industry.
Three unique dog therapy applications will be discussed in this article. These emerging dog therapy facilities will also be covered in more depth in a three-hour, Pierce College Community Education course (located in Woodland Hills) on October 23, 2015, called Rudy on Rounds: How to Become a Certified Dog Therapy Handler.
HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response (AACR)
Rudy on Rounds class presenter, Constance Howell, is the Co-Coordinator of the national organization called HOPE, Animal Assisted Crisis Response. HOPE AACR’s mission is to provide comfort and encouragement through animal-assisted support to individuals affected by crises and disasters.
HOPE AACR is not an animal rescue organization, nor do they take in animals for use in crisis response work. All crisis response dogs certified by HOPE AACR are owned and cared for by their handlers.
HOPE teams work, for example, under the guidance of FEMA, the American Red Cross, local city and county officials, depending upon the situation.
During the class, Constance will focus on how dog therapy handler teams help victims and first responders during crises events such as shootings, wild fires, and weather-related disasters, as well as discuss how one becomes qualified to serve in this capacity.
Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUPS)
Rudy on Rounds class presenter Heidi Huebner, Director of Volunteers, manages the Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program at the Los Angeles International Airport. Heidi summarized the program this way:
“As traveling can create stress and anxieties at airports, the LAX Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUP) program is an opportunity to provide an overall enhanced customer experience, providing stress relief and comfort to passengers through interaction with pets.
“Therapy dogs and handlers roam the departures levels in the gate areas of each terminal, visiting passengers awaiting flights and providing comfort, as well as providing airport information. The program educates and informs passengers about the LAX projects and construction related traffic impacts. Handlers are assigned terminals and airlines based upon requests from airline ground operation manager.”
The Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D)
The mission of the R.E.A.D. program is to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered therapy teams as literacy mentors.
The program improves children’s reading and communication skills by employing a powerful method: reading to an animal. But not just any animal. R.E.A.D. companions are registered therapy animals who volunteer with their owner/handlers as a team, going to schools, libraries and many other settings as reading companions for children.
R.E.A.D. is the first and foremost program that utilizes therapy animals to help kids improve their reading and communication skills and also teaches them to love books and reading. It’s been growing around the world since November of 1999 when it was launched in Salt Lake City.
More than 3,500 therapy teams have trained and registered with the program and are going strong!
Today, thousands of registered R.E.A.D. teams work throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Finland, France, Sweden, South Africa, Slovenia, Spain, Netherlands, Norway and beyond. R.E.A.D. is one of those ideas that, in the words of Bill Moyers, “Pierces the mundane to arrive at the marvelous.”
Emerging dog therapy facilities will be covered in more depth in a three-hour class entitled, Rudy on Rounds: How to Become a Certified Therapy Dog Handler. Classes will be held at various community colleges in the Southern California area.
Richard Katz, author of this article, will be the instructor for a new unique community college class, Rudy on Rounds: How to Become a Certified Dog Therapy Handler.
This 3-hour class will give you the opportunity to spend a few fun-filled hours and join a community of like-minded, caring people. The class is for dog owners or future dog owners that want to better understand the certification process to become a pet therapy team. With this in mind, we have developed a three-hour class to help you….
♦ Find out if therapy service is right for you and your dog before investing your time and money.
♦ Master the essentials of learning the most efficient, least cost and quickest way to become qualified.
♦ Gain an insider’s understanding into the types of facilities where you and your dog may qualify and a list of facilities in your area looking for handlers.
♦ Get post-class support to help you become a registered therapy animal handler.