Greetings from the members of the Therapy Animal Program Advisory Team (TAPAT)! Our team of 10 members is newly formed and composed of experienced therapy animal teams, Evaluators and Instructors from the Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program. This team replaces the former Therapy Animal Program Advisory Council and the Team Evaluator Advisory Council. We very much look forward to working with our volunteers in the months to come.
We would like to take this opportunity to provide a few precautions and safety reminders to help ensure your animal’s well-being and the safety of those you are visiting.
Safety precautions to remember:
Your animal should be under your control and on leash at all times. Therapy animals should not be allowed to wander away from their handlers or be given to someone else to hold.
Be sure to guide all interactions during a visit and to set limits about what types of interactions your animal does and does not enjoy. Some activities such as tug of war provide opportunities for the mouth to accidently come in contact with the skin and should be avoided. Other activities, such as rough petting or encouraging “high five”s with elderly patients who have thin skin, should also be avoided. You are empowered to say “no” to any activity that seems unwise or has the potential to develop into an incident — remember, YAYABA — “You Are Your Animal’s Best Advocate.”
During a reading session, a handler’s responsibility is first and foremost to the animal, not to the child. Handlers should monitor their animal before, during and after each session and prevent the animal from being crowded. (If crowding occurs, call on a librarian or someone else for assistance.) Remember that, in many cases, a dog’s mouth is at the same level as a child’s face. The potential for major physical harm is enormous.
The new Pet Partners handler course teaches a technique that all handlers should employ when visiting with their animals. The acronym for the technique is PETS, which should be easy to remember and put into action:
Proximity — Stay close to your animal. Kneeling down next to your animal helps you experience the interaction from your animal’s perspective.
Eye contact — Look at your animal. Do you see any signs of stress? Is it time to stop the visit or take a break?
Touch — Make frequent contact with your animal through touch and petting during all interactions.
Speech Tone — Talk to your animal and to the person receiving the visit. Speaking in soothing and positive tones, provide your animal reassurance that he or she is doing a good job. By talking to the person receiving the visit, help guide him or her through the interaction with your animal.
Even when following these and other precautions and other best visiting practices, there is always the possibility that an incident may occur. If you or your animal is involved in an incident, please report the incident to Pet Partners within two business days. Please use the form located on the Pet Partners website under Therapy Animals > Volunteer Team Resources page located here (requires login). Send the report via email to email@example.com. Similarly, request that all witnesses complete an incident report and send it to Pet Partners. For insurance liability reasons, you and your animal must suspend all visiting activities until an investigation can be conducted and the issue is resolved.Investigations typically take two to four weeks to complete.
Thank you again for all you do for your community and for the clients we serve!
Therapy Animal Program Advisory Team Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program Department
MO-KAN PET PARTNERS P.O. Box 7496 Overland Park, KS 66207