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Proposed Standards For Training and Use of Canines in Medical Rehabilitation

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I. Animal Characteristics & Training

A "Rehabilitation Dog" is an animal that is
trained to work with a patient during a treatment (physical, occupational,
speech therapy or therapeutic recreation) session. A designated trained
handler directs the dog and works closely with a certified therapist in
facilitating the use of the dog in the treatment session.

  • A minimum of 50 hours training over three (3) months
    should take place. Of this, at least 15 hours should take place in a health care
    setting, and 10 hours should be devoted to public exposure and field trips.

  • The dog should be able to perform basic obedience skills
    with voice and hand signals, including: "sit", "heel", "down",
    "stay", "come". Dogs should display controlled behavior
    both on and off lead.

  • The dog must display good ‘social’ skills: i.e., must not
    show any signs of aggression, no nuisance barking, no biting or snapping, no
    growling, no jumping on people, no aggression toward other animals, and no "begging"
    for food.

  • A Rehabilitation Dog should perform a recall both on and
    off lead at varying distances in a controlled, obedient manner, ending at either
    a sit or stand, with no jumping up. The dog must be able to respond to either a
    verbal or gestural command and return to a designated person as directed by the

  • Dogs must be trained to retrieve objects of various
    sizes, textures, and weights and return them to a specific person, as directed
    by the handler. Although the dog may show enthusiasm while performing the
    exercise, it must accomplish the retrieve promptly, under full control, with no
    nipping or pawing at the patient, handler, or therapist.

  • The dog must be able to walk in a controlled manner on
    the right or left, next to the following devices: walker, crutches, cane, manual
    or electric wheelchair, and stretcher. If accompanying a person without a
    device, but whose gait is unsteady, the dog must walk carefully alongside,
    adapting his gait to the speed and cadence of the person.

  • The dog must stand, sit or lie quietly on the floor, mat
    or table to allow a person to brush, pat or generally interact with him. The
    animal must also be able to tolerate general touching/handling that includes
    feet and ears.

  • All dogs must have passed a thorough temperament and
    health screening. Vaccinations must be up to date with records kept on file at
    each health care facility that utilizes it’s service.

  • All dogs must be properly treated by being provided with
    appropriate exercise, food, water, and avoiding exposure to persons or
    situations which may cause undue harm or prove hazardous.

  • Rehab Dog access is not recognized as canine assistance
    under the ADA.

II. Animal Facilitated Treatment (AFT) Programs:

  • Adherence must be maintained to all relevant state and
    federal regulations re: pets in health care facilities.

  • Each therapist who works in treatment sessions with rehab
    dogs must receive a minimum of 8 hours orientation as to the use of AFT in
    therapy sessions with an emphasis on safety.

  • Each patient who receives a referral to utilize animal
    facilitated therapy must have a written order from his or her physician, and an
    assessment done by a health care professional, nurse, therapist, or animal
    facilitated therapy specialist.

  • Long and short term goals must be set by the therapist
    for each patient and careful documentation must be kept of each person’s
    progress. This documentation should be a part of the patients’ medical record.