The companion animal assessment is completed by a team of evaluators. The assessment screens the handler and companion animal for suitability to proceed with preparation to becoming involved in pet therapy activities. It is important to recognize that the assessment screens for companion animal aptitude and skills and also handler skills.
The focus of the aptitude portion of the assessment examines:
- the animal’s orientation to people in general and specific populations
- the animal’s orientation to other animals
- the animal’s tolerance/need for personal space; and
- the animal’s reaction/sensitivity to visual, auditor and tactile stimuli and movement
This is determined by observing the animal’s responses to being touched, examined and petted aggressively. The animal should be comfortable and not resistant. It also observes the animal’s reaction to unfamiliar or unexpected events such as sudden noise and loud interaction between people.
The skills portion of the assessment observes:
• the handlers ability to move the animal about in pedestrian traffic and walking around equipment found in a facility (such as wheelchairs, walkers, etc)
• the animal’s ability and willingness to be positioned for petting by the handles
• the animal’s comfort in confined areas such as elevator; and
• the animal’s responsiveness to his or her handler.
Handler Skills looks at the partnership between the companion animal and the handler, how they work together as a team, and how they complement each other.
All companion animals should be re-assessed following a traumatic event that may affect the animal’s personality or behavior or following an indication of a change in personality or behavior by the handler or others. Companion animals that have not had continuous visits (i.e. missed more than six consecutive months of visits or not completed the minimum 4 visits per year) will also be reassessed.