Therapy dogs perform an important service for people around the United States, and many individuals find it beneficial to their mental health to have a therapy animal around. However, therapy dogs are not afforded the same rights under the law as registered service dogs, and therapy dogs may not be authorized to go all the same places. Service dogs are authorized under federal law to go everywhere that their owners go in order to assist them in day-to-day tasks, while therapy dogs can still be banned from any place pets are not allowed. Therapy dog certification can help people understand the importance of therapy dogs to their owners and may be beneficial for granting the animals access to more places where they can do good.

What is a Therapy Dog?

Therapy dogs are dogs that are trained to provide companionship and comfort to vulnerable people such as individuals with autism or anxiety. They are also used in hospices, hospitals and disaster areas where there are multiple people who could use the comfort and support these dogs provide. Therapy dogs are different from service dogs, which are trained to provide support and perform simple tasks for a single owner with disabilities. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, can work with multiple people and are not trained to support a single specific individual. This is the key difference that disqualifies them from being considered service animals.

Many organizations recognize the important role therapy dogs play, and making sure your animal gets proper therapy dog registration is essential for ensuring that it receives recognition and is granted all the necessary rights.

Getting your Dog Certified

Unlike service dogs, which are all certified according to standards set by the federal government, the standards required for therapy dog certification are set at the local level. Many organization that provide therapy dogs offer therapy dog certification programs that train dogs in a obedience and ensure they can follow simple commands. Some organizations provide further training for dogs that will be working with vulnerable populations or who are trained to assist in specific environments.

Types of Identification for Therapy Dogs

Different organizations provide different types of identification for certified therapy dogs. The three most common types of identification are vests, ID cards and patches. Some organizations may provide only one form of identification to all dogs, but others may give you a choice of identification forms.

Vests: Vests fit over the dog’s body and fasten securely under its chest. They are a great way of advertising the animal’s status as a therapy dog since they are clearly visible in public. When taking a dog into businesses or public place, it is often a good idea to have it wear a vest to clear up an misconceptions about its status.

ID Cards: ID cards are laminated cards that fit in a wallet or a pocket on the dog’s vest. These cards provide information about the dog’s status as a therapy animal, its certifying organization, and the dog itself.

Patches: Patches are easily affixed to the dog’s therapy vest in order to provide more information about its specific job. For example, patches are available that identify the dog as a therapy animal for veterans, individuals with autism and disabled individuals. Patches are not necessary forms of identification, but they can provide valuable context regarding the dog’s job.

If you train therapy dogs or have a therapy animal of your own, consider adding it to the national therapy dog registry and getting the appropriate identification. You will probably find that it allows your dog access to new places, and that it also helps educate individuals you encounter about the invaluable service therapy animals can do.