Historically there have been challenges faced while AAT struggles to be recognized as valid, the animals recognized as providing a service, their utilization as therapeutic aids. Objections and concerns have been voiced while we (AAT Chapter and other practitioners) continue our efforts to promote an understanding and appreciation of AAT in Canada. Some of these are as follows: AAT animals are not service animals in the legal sense and as a result often are not given the same degree of recognition, access, or acceptance. It is important to recognize the difference between the two.
“Service animals are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.Examples of such work include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, and reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications. Service dogs also employ specific skills to provide mobility assistance, support individuals with PTSD, communicate seizure alerts and/or perform other duties that mitigate an individual’s disability. Service dogs are considered working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.” (PetPartners)
Criteria the AAT in C animal must meet: For the furry therapeutic assistant there are a series of metaphorical hoops AAT animals must jump through to be recognized as appropriate for utilization in AAT in C. This includes a screening of the health of the animal for any diseases or issues that may inhibit the animal from being useful in therapy. The animal also needs to be approved by a professional veterinarian before moving on to the next hoop. The third step includes a test that checks the skills and ability of the animal and handler to react in therapy sessions (assessing animal temperament, obedience, intuition, attunement, etc). This part is only a fraction of the process as emphasis is on the practitioner to become competent and trained/certified accordingly.