Dentistry by the Shore

(310) 395-2345
  • Dr. Lisa Chan-Flagg
  • Dr. Lisa Chan-Flagg
  • Dr. Lisa Chan-Flagg
  • Dr. Lisa Chan-Flagg
  • Dr. Lisa Chan-Flagg
  • Dr. Lisa Chan-Flagg

Therapy Dogs

Reasons for therapy dogs

The term "pet therapy" should be avoided because it is inaccurate and misleading. This term was widely used several decades ago to refer to animal behavior training programs. Today we use the terms "animal-assisted activities" or "animal-assisted therapy". These are the terms that human service providers and volunteers use when referring to the involvement of animals in human treatment programs. We do animal-assisted therapy when we work directly with a licensed healthcare or human service provider to help a patient meet specific goals. We do animal-assisted activities when we meet and greet people to brighten their day, or do a demonstration in front of a group of people.

What is the difference between service and therapy animals?

A 'Service Animal' is defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act (federal law, 1990) as any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. This can include guide, mobility, sound alert, and medical alert/response work. Their work is handler-focused and benefits their handlers who have disabilities. Federal law generally permits qualified people who have disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals in all places of public accommodation. Service animals are not considered "pets." For more information about service animals, check out the National Service Dog Center.

Therapy animals and their handlers are trained to provide specific human populations with appropriate contact with animals. They are usually the personal pets of the handlers and accompany their handlers to the sites they visit, but therapy animals may also reside at a facility. Animals must meet specific criteria for health, grooming and behavior. While managed by their handlers, their work is not handler-focused and instead provides benefits to others.

Therapy animals are usually not service animals. Federal law, which protects the rights of qualified individuals with disabilities, has no provision for people to be accompanied by therapy animals in places of public accommodation such as restaurants, grocery stores, or other places that have a "no pets" policies.

What is Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy?

Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) * is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal is incorporated as an integral part of the clinical healthcare treatment process. AAT is delivered or directed by a professional health or human service provider who demonstrates skill and expertise regarding the clinical applications of human-animal interactions. Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) * provide opportunities for motivational, educational and/or recreational benefits to enhance a person's quality of life. AAA are delivered by a professional, para-professional or volunteer who demonstrates knowledge about animals and the human populations with which they interact.

What types of healthcare facilities have visiting animals?

Nationally you will find virtually every kind of healthcare facility - acute care hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals, nursing homes, group homes, schools, day care, etc.

*Terms, definitions, and descriptions for personnel involved in visiting and residential animal programs are quoted from "Standards of Practice for Animal-Assisted Activities and Therapy" (Delta Society, 1996).