There is a level of comfort that comes with spending time among animals. They are, in the words of Winston Churchill, good for your insides. Making the decision to share your pets with others to bring them comfort and companionship isn’t a simple one. Here are some suggestions to help you have the best therapy pet experience possible.
Find out what is and what isn’t allowed where you live and will operate. You may need to obtain a handler’s license or show proof of specialized training. Make sure to follow these rules and guidelines even if they seem restrictive.
Understand, also, the differences between therapy pets who bring comfort to many people and emotional support animals who bring comfort to their owners/handlers only. You will probably not be able to take your therapy pet onto planes or into restaurants.
Train Your Pet
Not every animal makes a great therapy pet. Start with pets that have calm, patient, and relaxed temperaments for the best experience. Then work to train and acclimate them to whatever situations you think they may encounter. If you are planning to take them to hospitals or nursing homes, for example, practice having them remain calm and still around wheelchairs, bright lights, and loud, crowded places.
Look into specialized insurance for the therapy animals you will be working with. This can help protect you in the case of an accident or injury to your clients or animals. Ask your tax professional if dog or horse insurance cost is a business expense if you are planning to charge for your services.
Start Small, Think Big
Start with small groups of people or individuals to let your animals understand their role as companions, snugglers, or supporters. Gradually increase them to larger groups and more chaotic situations until they are confident.
Therapy pets offer comfort and reduce anxiety in a whole range of situations, form hospitals and nursing homes to college campuses during finals. Be prepared to really make a difference for the people you visit and serve.