Simply put it is irresponsible to go visiting without adequate insurance coverage. It isn't a risk for just you alone, but can also affect every one interested in doing pet visits. You don't have to be in the wrong to be sued. Accidents happen. Lack of insurance is not just a problem for the person visiting, but can also cause the site problems. An incident is more likely to cause the complete elimination of visitation programs if it has adverse financial consequences to the facility.
Most organizations have a detailed evaluation process. The evaluation starts with a temperament test and a health test. Do not start visiting on your own until you can produce AT LEAST a CGC certificate and a health certificate. This is not, however, really good enough. If you are going to take advantage of group insurance you will need to be certified by the group carrying the insurance.
The Delta Society, Therapy Dogs, Incorporated, and Therapy Dogs International are just some of the organizations that will evaluate and certify your dog.
Maintain current inoculations for distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, para-influenza and parvo virus and rabies. Obtain a stool check for parasites at least once every year. Keep current a health certificate attesting to these inoculations as well as the general health and condition of your dog.
Appearances are very important. Many times people will only see you and the dog, and not have the opportunity to interact. You will not, therefore, easily dispel a bad first impression. The impressions people have of you and your dog reflect upon all other service dogs.
The most natural of doggy and human scents can leave an impression of lack of care. Both of you should be clean and odor free. For many dogs this means the time between the bath and the visit should be no more than two days. Eyes and ears should be clean and free of discharge.
Your dog should be completely free of fleas and other parasites. Make sure your dog doesn't bring fleas into the facility or home. Postpone visits if your dog has any red spots, bare spots or other areas of obviously irritated skin. The dog's coat should be shiny and well brushed to avoid excessive shedding. If your dog is in a heavy shedding period postpone visiting until the shed is over.
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Also see Books and Publications - How to train your dog, how to start a program, and more.
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Copyright © 1996-2003, Diane Blackman Created: August 23, 1996 Updated November 12, 2007