645 – Professional Therapy Animals


Professional School Therapy Dogs certified with their owners/handlers as Certified Assistance Dog Teams provide emotional and physical support in the educational setting. These highly trained dogs model good behavior, tolerance, and acceptance. All Certified Assistance Dog Teams in the Urbandale School District work to support and positively influence student achievement.

Definition. Professional therapy dogs are dogs trained and tested to provide specific physical or therapeutic functions under the direction and control of a qualified handler who works with the dog as a team. Such dogs, with their handlers, perform such functions in institutional settings, community-based group settings, or when providing services to specific persons who have disabilities.

Professional therapy dogs will be certified using TDI (Therapy Dogs international) or Public Access testing prior to being placed with a school building. This training is the responsibility of the handler. A current certificate showing active certification should be kept in the handler’s building and in the office of the Coordinator of Special Education.

Professional therapy dogs are owned by Urbandale Community School staff members who wish to use a professional therapy dog to augment building educational programs. They will abide by the Therapy Dog Handler Ethics.

Conditions of Use. Professional Therapy Dogs may be used in the school setting on a regular basis when the following documentation is in place:

1) Administrative Approval
The use of the animal or animals must be approved by the administrator(s) of the building(s) in which the Professional Therapy Dog’s handler works. A letter stating this approval should be written and kept on file in the building. A copy should be sent to the Coordinator of Special Education.

2) Health Records and Hygiene/Animal Care
The owner/handler must provide a record of annual vaccinations received by the dog and signed by a veterinarian; these health records should be kept on file in the school building and in the office of the Coordinator of Special Education.

  1.   The dog should receive a bordatella vaccination annually; rabies vaccinations and five- way parvo/distemper (DHPP) shall be updated every three years. Please note: dogs less than one year of age or receiving their rabies and parvo vaccinations for the first time shall receive a follow-up vaccine in one year, with vaccinations every three years thereafter.
  2.   The dog should be given an annual comprehensive wormer or fecal check for worms.
  3.   The dog should be checked for external parasite control.
  4.   All owners will give preventive parasite (fleas and ticks) control and heart worm medication year-round. Annual tests for heart worm are recommended. The dog should be groomed and bathed regularly. Good judgment should be used based on the dog’s hair, skin, and dander concerns.

3) Documentation
The following documents should be up to date and kept on file in the school building and the office of the Coordinator of Special Education.

  1.   A copy of the Therapy Dog International or Public Access certificate of completion
  2.   A copy of the Therapy Dog Handler Ethics
  3.   The Professional Therapy Dog guidelines and procedures utilized at the school site (determined by the administrator and dog owner/handler).
  4.   Dates, method, and participants for sharing the guidelines and procedures with staff and students (minimum of once a year)
  5.   Proof of insurance

4) Insurance
A district staff member using a professional therapy dog according to the above guidelines, must be covered by their private insurance policy (minimum $1 million liability coverage).

Pet Visitation Dogs – Definition. A pet visitation dog is a dog owned by a volunteer or student who is NOT employed by Urbandale Community Schools but who has received registration and/or recognition for volunteer pet visitation. These dogs are NOT considered to be Professional Therapy Dogs.

For a dog to be used on a volunteer basis, these guidelines must be followed:

  1.   The use of the animal(s) must be approved by the administrator of the building.
  2.   If the handler of the dog is an employee of Urbandale Community Schools, the dog and handler must be certified under the Professional Therapy Dog guidelines listed above.
  3.   The dog may be used no more often than one visitation per week for a two-hour time.
  4.   Should the dog be used more often or for longer periods, it must pass all requirements for

Professional Therapy Dog status through the Therapy Dog International or Public Access certification program.

The following documents should be up to date and kept of file in the school building and the office of the Coordinator of Special Education.

  1.   Current veterinary records of worming schedules and annual vaccinations for five-way Parvo and bordatella as well as rabies vaccinations every three years.
  2.   Proof of insurance
  3.   A letter of approval from the building administrator(s).

The privilege to bring the Professional Therapy Dog or Pet Visitation Dog into the school setting may be terminated should the handler or dog behave in a way deemed unprofessional or unsafe.

Service Animals

These guidelines pertain to professional therapy dogs and pet visitation dogs only. For staff and students requiring the assistance of a “Service Animal,” the District will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Iowa Code Chapter 216C. Also: See Code No. 646.

Date of Adoption: July 10, 2017
Legal References: Code of Iowa § 279.8


*** Supporting document: not actually a part of the actual policy

Professional Therapy Dog Handler Ethics

1. Handlers should evaluate their dog’s health and attitude before each working day.
2. It is permissible for the dog to be off-lead while in a supervised situation where it is working, but it should not be allowed to wander through the facility unsupervised. 3. Be aware and courteous of the places your dog is welcome or allowed in each facility. Students should be taught to “smile and wave” (or other quiet greeting) at the dog in the hall or other less-structured environments to alleviate disruption of students’ attention and conduct.
4. Handlers/designated adults will always clean up after the dog, inside or outside the facility.
5. Give verbal commands firmly and calmly and praise the dog for exemplary behavior.
6. Students are NEVER to be left alone with a dog; a designated adult must always be present. When the dog is left unattended, it should be put in a crate with the door latched or in a room or office with the door closed.
7. If treats are used, students should be taught to give the treat with a flat hand or drop the treat on the ground.
8. Always be alert to signs of stress in the dog. Some signs of stress may be:

  •  Excessive panting
  •  Dog jumps or climbs on handler for security
  •  Dog hides behind handler
  •  Shaking or tremors, or ears and tail pressed closed to body
  •  Yawning and changes in facial expression
  •  Dog looks for doorway or other escape route
  •  Noticeable change in behavior and/or desire to socialized. Be aware of small items dropped on the floor and do not allow the dog to rummage through trash containers.
  •  Use the “Leave it!” command if this situation arises.
  • When working with disabled persons, the designated adult will assist in commanding and handling the dog.
  • Never knowingly put your dog in questionable or threatening situation.
  • All UCSD handlers/designated adults will follow the district guidelines to ensure the safety of their dogs and students; in addition, following these guidelines will help provide for the appropriate hygiene and veterinary care for their dogs, ensuring a long and healthy certified assistance dog team relationship.


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