Therapy animal interventions have continually evolved over the past 50 years. These standards of practice articulate critical guidelines for therapy animals and their handlers in a field that inspires wellness in countless settings around the world. The Standards of Practice in AAI have started to make their way into legislation. Thank you to the lawmakers who have recognized the importance of safe and effective animal-assisted interventions (AAI).
The Court Dog Program for Veterans Treatment Courts, introduced as House Bill 186 and signed into law in 2021, specifically states that therapy dogs should have “graduated from a program operated by an organization that registers or certifies therapy dogs and their handlers to meet or exceed the standards of practice in animal–assisted interventions.”
In 2019, Assembly Bill 6601 was passed requiring the Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets to identify and develop standards for therapy dogs. The resulting guidance for handlers and facilities using therapy dogs closely mirrored many of the key points in the Standards in Practice in AAI.
House Bill 1071, passed in 2021, brings the presence of dogs into certain court proceedings. The law defines a qualified therapy dog as one affiliated with an organization “meeting or exceeding the standards of practice in animal-assisted interventions.”
The presence of therapy animals has a wide range of benefits. This model legislation builds off of best practices in current legislation and also looks to the future.