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                     Faithful Paws   at   Bellaire United Methodist Church 
                         ANIMAL ASSISTED THERAPY PROGRAM 
                     RULES FOR CONDUCTING
                       A PET THERAPY VISIT
                                                  Revised July 2016


PURPOSE OF A THERAPY ANIMAL & Active Membership Status

     Our certified Therapy Pets are NOT Service Animals. Under the ADA, "comfort," "therapy," or "emotional support animals" do not meet the definition of a service animal. Service Animals are animals that are specially trained to help a person with disabilities and are to be focused solely on that one person. Therapy pets are animals that volunteer with their owners to improve the lives of others. Therapy pets are NOT service animals and they do not have the same public access as service animals. Handlers of therapy pets must not ever present their animal as a service animal, nor try to gain public access to planes, restaurants, public buildings, etc. Active status for Faithful Paws members and pets can be checked at any time with our manager through this web site. Possession of the ID badge alone does not verify current active status of any person or pet. The therapy pet and handler must maintain current active status with their therapy animal registration/certification organization as long as they are volunteering and to be considered a therapy animal. 




  1. Grooming
    1. Pets should be bathed within 48 hours of a visit. Some facilities may require a bath within 24 hours – ask your team leader. Be sure to brush coat to remove loose hair before a visit.  Other good ways to remove loose hair are wiping the coat with a damp towel and/or using a shedding blade.
    2. Nails should be trimmed, smooth and clean – nails can cause big problems if they break skin and bleeding results. Remember, many of the residents we visit have very thin skin.
    3. Teeth should be brushed or breath spray used.
    4. DO NOT use flea sprays or flea drops between a bath and a visit. They can be toxic or have an unpleasant odor. People could have allergic reactions.
  2. Arrival
    1. Be sure you have contacted the team leader before each visit. Visits can get canceled or moved at the last minute, and the leader needs to know who to notify of a change. Keep the cell phone number of the team leader with you.
    2. Be on time. We visit most places as a group and it is not fair to make everyone wait. Remember that clients may have other planned activities and you need to start and end on time as scheduled. Some places have escorts for us, and we do not want to waste their time. Call the team leader if an emergency is making you late.
    3. Know where to park and what entrance to use.
    4. Never travel with your pet loose in the back of a truck.
  3. Dress
    1. Plan to dress professionally, but comfortably. Collared shirts and docker pants are nice. Tennis shoes are encouraged; no flip-flops. We offer Faithful Paws shirts in red, white or blue. We also have patches that can be sewed onto your collared shirt or onto a pet’s vest or bandana. Must be neat and clean. Hospitals do not allow denim, open-toed shoes, or shorts. Check with each team leader for their facility's rules.
    2. Once you receive them, wear your Faithful Paws ID badges while visiting. 
  4. Pet Care Kit
    1. Bring a "Necessary Bag” REQUIRED (small bag, backpack or fanny pack, or dog’s back-pack) We advise you to carry a copy of the pet's Rabies Vaccination Certificate. Many places will want a copy of it for their files.
    2. Plastic bag or pooper-scooper bag. Zip-bags are best. Pick up poop (even if outside) and take it with you and dispose of at home. This can be a smelly situation if left in the wrong place.
    3. Paper towels and a bottle of odor neutralizer (i.e. Nature's Miracle, Simple Solution) 
    4. Soft pet brush. Some places use brushing as part of physical therapy for clients.
    5. Extra short leash. If a client (usually a child) wants to walk your dog, use both leashes and you retain control of one.
    6. Small bowl for water.
    7. A towel to use if your pet can be placed in a client’s lap or bed.  A towel can also be useful for wiping a dog’s face after drinking, or to put under a water bowl to prevent wet floors. Carry a drool rag if your dog drools.
  5. Leashes and collars
    1. Dogs and cats must be kept on leash at all times while visiting. Handlers must hold the leash.
    2. Leather, cloth or canvas leashes only. No chains, ropes or flexi-leads allowed. Leashes must be 4 foot long or shorter, depending on the height of the dog. Absolutely no long leashes. You don’t want them turning a corner ahead of you and eating a pill off the floor. Be aware of the animal’s whereabouts and actions at all time during the visit. Animals must be effectively controlled by a leash and/or cage at all times during the visit. NO PULLING allowed. Pulling is not a credible image. Dogs must walk by handler's side at all times.
    3. No chain, choke or prong collars are allowed on visits. No “around the nose” leaders.
  6. Other
    1. Exercise your pet prior to your visit. Allow pet to potty prior to the visit if possible. Be prepared to clean up after your pet if they poop on the property of one of the facilities or in the facility. Remember to take home with you for disposal.
    2. No more than two pets per member on any visit. Many places allow only one.
    3. Bring water to give your pet and yourself a drink after a visit.


1.      CONFIDENTIALITY – We follow the HIPAA law. Volunteers should guard and respect the dignity, privacy and anonymity of patients being visited. Some facilities ask volunteers to sign affidavits to this effect. You are NOT to repeat any information that you happen to see or hear. Do not ask personal questions.

2.    NO PICTURES are to be taken by us on visits of anyone other than our own members or pets. Verifying legal permission for pictures is beyond our ability, and we cannot know who would be competent to give written permission. We may hand out pictures of our pets, and many residents enjoy receiving these. Residents may take pictures of us and our pets with their own cameras if they desire. Even if a family member or a facility sends pictures to us that show any non-member, we must not share them anywhere, including Facebook.

3.     Our members are to stay as a group on our visits. Some places provide an escort for us, and we must stay with them as a group throughout our visit. We may form smaller groups, but we should not visit alone with residents. 

4.    Volunteers are not to administer to clients in any sort of clinical manner. The most innocent act, sometimes even a drink of water or moving a limb, could be detrimental to a person’s health or well being. Notify staff of situation. For any request, say “I will tell the aide”, and then do so.

5.     Some dogs also don’t like other dogs in their face. Do not allow animals to butt-sniff or nose-sniff each other – this can and does lead to problems on visits – also, it doesn’t look professional.

6.  It is OK to bring your pet treats. Cheerios are good – you don’t want anything that will be wet or messy or smelly. Use human-grade treats for visits.

7.      NO BALLS on a visit. For retrieving exercises on visits working with a therapist and their client, use a toy that does not bounce or roll. We don’t want to have a moving toy trip someone and have them fall.

8.    Creativity – have fun – try to make your visits as interesting as possible.  Hats, decorated collars and bandanas for holidays are encouraged. Dog vests are great, and we use only blue. (Service dogs use red.)

9.    Be knowledgeable about facility policies and follow them.  Remember you are a visiting guest.  Be polite and considerate.

10.   Be knowledgeable about your animal’s behavior and watch for signs of stress. Dogs get tired, too. Dogs should NOT be permitted to bark on visits.

11.  Volunteers with any fever or those who have knowingly been exposed to a contagion should not visit. Pets can not visit with open, healing, stitched, or bandaged wounds.

12.  Be familiar with disease/conditions that you will run across during visitations and what to expect from people who have them. Do NOT enter a room with an “Isolation” sign on the door.

13.  Wait when entering doorways/elevators – allow other visitors/residents to enter first. Offer to wait for another elevator.

14.  Be friendly and show empathy, not sympathy, during your visit.

15.  Before you approach a client, ask if they would like a visit from your animal. If they respond positively, follow your instinct and start a conversation. If they respond negatively, excuse yourself courteously; never force an animal on a client. Respect their feelings. Clients may change their minds about wanting to see your animal, so ask again on the next visit. Many clients have never seen a trained animal, so a demonstration of obedience or tricks may help some clients overcome their reservation. "Sit" and "shake hands" can entertain some residents many times.

16.  Be a good listener. Provide questions to keep the conversation going. You may want to ask if they had pets and what kind of pets they had. Do not yell or speak loudly when communicating with the hearing impaired. Directly face the client and use caring body language as much as possible. If residents don't talk, feel free to talk enough for both of you.

17.  Be aware of staff time. They are very busy and have many responsibilities. Do not give them any more. Allow staff to interact with pets as they wish. We all benefit from a pet therapy break.

18.  In case of any emergency drill or evacuation, follow staff directions. You are responsible only for yourself and the safety of your pet. You are AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) volunteers only and not responsible for patients, staff or visitors. Facilities must look to their regular volunteers and not to us for safety training.

19.  Remember that you and your animal companion have probably established important human-animal bonds with some clients and they will be looking forward to seeing you again. So please continue your regular visitations. We require at least a commitment to monthly visits. Most members visit more often, going to several facilities. It is also fine to join a visit just once, if you have some extra time and a clean pet. Residents love to see a different pet for a change. Let the leader know, of course.

20.  At the discretion of the Animal Assistance Therapy Director, a handler and/or animal may be asked to temporarily or permanently refrain from further visits representing the Bellaire United Methodist Church, Animal Assistance Therapy Program, if the above guidelines fail to be strictly adhered to. Should this action be necessary, the handler shall immediately relinquish ownership of the picture identification card to the Director, or Manager, or appropriate team leader.

21.  Remember, we are all ambassadors of good will representing Bellaire United Methodist Church, and pet therapy in general, so keep putting your best foot forward, all six (or more) of them, so that we may have a credible image. Your caring and loving for people and animals enriches many lives. Most of all, keep up the excellent work.

22.  Don’t forget to have fun!

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