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106 Professional Therapy Dogs

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 Knoxville Community 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 Knoxville 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.    

  • 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.
  • The dog should be given an annual comprehensive wormer or fecal check for worms.
  • The dog should be checked for external parasite control.
  • 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.
  1. Documentation:  The following documents should be up to date and kept on file in the school building and the office of the of Special Education Coordinator.
  • A copy of the Therapy Dog International or Public Access certificate of completion
  • A copy of the Therapy Dog Handler Ethics
  • The Professional Therapy Dog guidelines and procedures utilized at the school site (determined by the administrator and dog owner/handler).
  • Dates, method, and participants for sharing the guidelines and procedures with staff and students (minimum of once a year)
  • Proof of insurance
  1. 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).

The privilege to bring the Professional Therapy 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 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.


*** 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 KCSD 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.

Approved:  11/23/2020             Reviewed:                     Revised: