105 - Therapy Animals

School Therapy Dogs certified with their owners/handlers as Certified Therapy Dogs provide social emotional and physical support in the educational setting. These highly trained dogs model good behavior, tolerance, acceptance and assist with student’s behavior concerns. All Certified Therapy Dogs in the Algona School District work to support students, positively influence student achievement and support student’s social and emotional health.

Definition: Therapy dogs are dogs trained and certified to provide social emotional 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 within the school setting,  community-based group settings, or when providing services to specific persons.

Therapy dogs will be certified through Alliance of Therapy Dog, Love on a Leash, or an AKC therapy dog certification program approved by administration prior to being placed within 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 administrative office. Therapy dogs are owned by Algona Community School staff members who wish to use a therapy dog to augment building educational programs. They will abide by the Therapy Dog Handler Ethics code.

The owner(s), as identified on the Therapy dog vital information form, of identified Therapy Dog(s) will be responsible for all costs associated with the training and certification, general care, feeding and veterinarian care for therapy dog(s).

Conditions of Use:
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 yearly. A current letter stating this approval should be written and kept on file in the building. 

2) Health Records
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 administrative office.  

3) Hygiene and Animal Care Guidelines:

  • 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 heartworm 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.

  • A copy of the Alliance of Therapy Dog, Love on a Leash, or an AKC therapy dog certification program approved by administration certificate of completion.
  • A signed copy of the Therapy Dog Handler Ethics
  • The 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

4) Insurance
A district staff member using a therapy dog according to the above guidelines, must be covered by their private insurance policy (minimum $1 million liability coverage). A current copy of liability insurance should be kept on file in the administrative office of the building where the Therapy Dog is located.

5) The privilege to bring a Therapy Dog into the school setting may be terminated:

  • If the handler or dog behave in a way deemed unprofessional or unsafe.
  • Any time the school administration deems it necessary to end the program due to student, building or district needs.

Service Animals
These guidelines pertain to 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.

Legal References:
Code of Iowa § 279.8

Date of Review
November 11, 2020

Date of Revisions


***Supporting documents:  not actually a part of the actual policy.