Animal Assisted Activities Policies and Procedures

Adapted with permission from Dawn Torine-Micko

Before conducting animal assisted activities (AAA), facilities need to develop policies and procedures to guide all aspects of such programs. Included in this section are questions to stimulate thinking about this process. Although the questions pertain to visiting or working animals, many apply to live-in animals as well. Most facilities find it helpful to begin by formulating a mission statement and objectives for their animal programs. Also be sure to review and incorporate your state’s Department of Health regulations when writing AAA policies and procedures.

Policies and procedures regarding the overall AAA program:

  • Who will direct the AAA program?
  • Who will handle the animals? Volunteers, staff, or other professionals?
  • Who needs to be present at AAA visits/programs?
  • What are the guidelines for managing and scheduling AAA visits?
  • What training will animal volunteers receive with regard to your facilities policies and procedures?
  • What infection control guidelines need to be established for animals and their handlers?
  • What kind of insurance coverage is necessary for this type of programming?
  • Where will the AAA occur? Where can they not occur?
  • How will you educate the staff involved with the AAA program?
  • How will you inform the rest of the facility staff about the AAA program?
  • How will you identify the AAA volunteers in your facility? Do they and their animals need ID tags?
  • How will potential recipients of AAA be identified?
  • How will confidentiality be addressed?

Policies and procedures regarding the AAA recipients:

  • Who are the potential recipients of your AAA program?
  • How will you identify recipients who do not wish to be part of the program?
  • How will you inform the potential recipients and their families about your AAA program?
  • How will you provide an orientation about the AAA program for the recipients?

Policies and procedures for infection control:

  • Establish guidelines to protect recipients, AAA volunteers, and their animals from illness.
  • Establish policies to inform volunteers about when they should not visit (eg, if there is an outbreak of head lice, scabies, or the flu in your facility).

Policies and procedures for the AAA Animals:

  • How will you determine if the animal is appropriate for AAA at your facility?
  • How will you evaluate the animal and its handler?
  • What kind of training should the animal receive or already have to be apart of your AA program?
  • Should the animals be registered with a national therapy dog organization?
  • How often will you review an animal’s suitability to be in your AAA program?
    (Most therapy organizations suggest every two years and more often if radical change occurs in the animal.)
  • What health information is necessary for the animal to participate?
  • What are the expectations for the animal’s conduct while in your facility?
  • What is your policy for dealing with undesirable behavior?
  • What are the grooming requirements for the animal?
  • What forms should be developed for keeping records on the AAA animals?

Policies and procedures for AAA handlers/volunteers:

  • How will you determine if the handler/volunteer is appropriate for your AAA program?
  • What kind of training will your facility conduct for handlers/volunteers as part of your AAA program? They should have some training on infection control, confidentiality issues, general orientation to your facility, fire and weather related drills, etc.
  • What are your expectations of them as a member of your AAA program?
    Include such things as amount of participation, where to “potty” their animals, their conduct, knowledge of your animal policies and procedures.
  • What forms should be developed for keeping records on the volunteer/handler?
    Establish a specific policy and procedure for any incidence that may occur!

Policies and procedures regarding liability:

  • Review the facility’s liability policies for possible exclusions or restrictions that might apply to the use of animals in the facility.
  • Keep verification of current registration on file if the animal is registered with a therapy dog organization.

Policies and procedures for AAA program evaluation:

  • How will you measure the effectiveness of your AAA program? A well-run program includes periodic evaluations of the general program.