Becoming a Therapy Team
Human-animal bond: There is a beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that positively influences the health and well-being of both. This bond is the unconditional love and acceptance that pets give their owners. The other half of that bond is the love and affection that people have for their pets; willing to care for, protect and share their lives with this animal. All people need touch and to be loved to maintain quality mental and physical health. Your pet accepts, trusts and loves you. That's why it's so important to share our pets with a lonely or isolated person. The reward are huge. So much research has been done over the years with scientific studies documenting the overwhelming evidence of this connection and its benefits.
Benefits of therapy animals: A therapy animal can help a person with anxiety, depression and increase their interest in daily living. They can inspire wellness, encouraging people to walk or participate in their rehabilitation. The documented effects of therapy animals in medical facilities show decreased levels of pain, anxiety, stress and improved recovery rates. In schools and libraries, therapy animals (ususally dogs) motivate children to improve their reading skills and comprehension. Prairieland helps children in court (when testifying), nurses taking final exams and juveniles in trouble to de-stress.
What to look for in a therapy animal:
Calm - able to remain calm, allowing people to touch of hug them
Confident - able to handle any strange situation with ease
Gentle - especially with children or the elderly (no aggression is allowed)
Adaptable - able to adjust to new situations and people, moving around medical equipment & tight spaces
Intelligent - able to learn basic obedience plus specific commands (ie. leave it)
Likes people - eager to meet strangers in a loving way (children are in a different category)
Ignores stimuli - able to focus on handler, when loud noises or other distractions occur
Reliable - behavior should be predictable
Animals must be at least one year old when testing. Prior obedience training (mostly for dogs) and socialization is a must. Great therapy animals ADORE people. Animals can sense when someone needs them and can make that emotional connection with them that changes that person's life. Pretty amazing stuff.
Your role as a volunteer and handler requires that your pet be squeaky clean, healthy, nails smoothed and vaccinations up to date. Dress appropriately. Be on time and be responsible for your pet and ensure their safety at all times. Show compassion, be respectful and maintain confidentiality (per HIPPA regulations). Watch you animal's body language for stress signals and excuse yourself if necessary. More information on pet therapy basics will be added later for those just starting out with visits.
Prairieland Visiting Animals Association (PVAA) was organized in 1994 and is not affiliated with any national pet therapy group. That means you get to choose which group works best for you. If you have a limited dog training background or a pet that needs extra training in one or more areas, it might be wise to choose Pet Partners. If unsure, please send us an email and ask a member for some help in deciding which group might be beneficial for you.
Below we are showing and comparing 3 national pet therapy groups, which complement each other, especially for dogs going into the reading program that we have at the public library. We offer mentors for new teams and fun get togethers a couple of times each year.
Each group has different requirements for joining and maintaining your membership. By registering your pet, you will have the pride and satisfaction of knowing that you are a professional, have met the high standards of one of these therapy organizations listed below and you will be welcome at more facilities. All groups provide personal liability insurance only while you are visiting or attending a special event. If you have any questions, please email PVAA or the contact person listed for a particular group. We will help and guide you through the process of becoming a new pet therapy team. We want you to succeed!