Having your dog certified as a therapy dog through a registered therapy dog organization holds special benefits for the dog’s owner. The prime benefit that comes with membership in an organization is volunteer liability insurance. When I started visiting with my first certified therapy dog back in 1992, very few dogs were allowed in facilities of any type. But, if dogs were allowed to visit back then, that meant any dog – certified or not. Things have changed a lot in 18 years… on the plus side, the positive effects therapy dogs have on folks in healthcare facilities and educational programs have been recognized and appreciated, on the negative side, lawsuits of all types have increased causing concerns about liability to develop. When speaking to an insurance broker, I was informed that anything to do with dogs is ranked #2 on the risk factor; risk of fire being #1. Facilities and programs are conscious of this situation and most require that a visiting dog be certified through a registered therapy dog organization and carry liability insurance through that organization.
Beyond this, belonging to a local or national therapy dog organization will offer additional benefits. Bright Spot Therapy Dogs, Inc. offers a very generous membership package including: liability insurance, official Bright Spot dog vest, T-shirt, ID badges for the dog and owner, membership handbook, list of visiting opportunities, monthly members e-newsletter, and the annual Bright Spot News, as well as member support. Check with your local or national therapy dog organizations to find out what benefits they offer – but of utmost importance, be certain that membership includes liability insurance. You are responsible for your dog – if there is an incident, it is you who will be sued. Don’t take chances!