Health Coaching for You & Your Pet

Include your pets in your health journey! The PHC acknowledges and includes your pet in health coaching sessions. Since the initial visit is done in-office, though, no animals are allowed. Your pet can & should be introduced (as long as they are not stressed) through pictures, a live feed, & any follow-up Zoom appointments. Coaching is done by Andi Woods, Clinical Health Coach. $60 per session. Click here & request a health coach appointment here: Contact link

Pet care offered also Let me be a part of caring for your pets! My office is downtown so I especially enjoy supporting urban pet care. I have years of pet care experience, am a member of the American Psychological Association’s Human-Animal Interaction Division, & would love to meet you & your pet! Contact link

Click here for info on human-animal-environment connections

Click here for info on the Human-Animal Interaction division of the American Psychological Association: Human-Animal Interactions in Psychology

Click here for info on the International Society of Anthrozoology

Wait, What? A Service Dog Is Not a Therapy Dog Is Not an Emotional Support Dog

Above is a picture of Emma, a certified pet-therapy dog. Emma’s job is amazingly effective. Her presence brings smiles to faces and calmness in visits. Emma is registered at the high-complexity therapy level. She is a mellow yellow pooch who thrives on sitting with someone in need of animal contact. She has been a read-to-a-dog at libraries and sits with people in their last days of life.

Animals can help us be healthier both individually and as a community, so it’s important to understand the different categories of animal-assisted interactions (AAI). There’s a fair amount of misinformation out there about what constitutes service dogs, emotional support animals (ESAs), and therapy animals.

It can be disheartening when people take advantage of AAI inappropriately. It is not uncommon for someone to to bring their dog inside a store with a fake vest. Unless the dog is wearing an authorized service-dog vest, the person should not be bringing their dog into stores or businesses. For example, if someone is holding a puppy in their arms in a store and they say it’s their therapy animal, this is impossible. Puppies aren’t old enough to earn therapy certification or service-dog status, and ESAs are not allowed in stores. If someone enters a store with a dog that has on a generic dog vest, this means nothing. Only official service dogs are allowed in stores — when in public, the have to wear a service-dog vest to clearly mark their designated role.

Let’s look at proper terminology.

SERVICE DOGS: Did you know that legally a service dog is not a pet? Legally, a service dog is defined as an animal providing assistance to or performing tasks for a person with a disability. For example, a formally trained Seeing Eye dog acts as the vision guide for a person who is vision impaired. The Americans with Disabilities Act National Network’s website (see link below) does a great job explaining how service dogs are not ESAs.

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS (ESAs): The ADA National Network explains that ESAs, also called comfort animals, are support animals that “provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities” (see weblink below). In short, an ESA dog is not an official service dog.

For a person who wants to claim their pet as an ESA, the person needs to receive proper authorization from a health-care provider. The professional needs to be thorough when working with the client requesting authorization for their pet to become an ESA. A health care professional should only authorize someone to have an ESA if they have sufficient supporting information. This may include input from the client and a therapist, and having the client explain how they will be able to care for their ESA pet.

There are online businesses that sell “emotional support vests” that people can put on their dog without professional authorization. This is abuse of the ESA system and ruins it for others. These businesses need to be discredited, as it makes it harder for those who truly need an ESA to be accepted in society. Over time, though, things are becoming become structured with more oversight, thankfully.

THERAPY ANIMALS: Although not legally defined by federal law, some states have laws defining therapy animals. In general, therapy animals provide people with therapeutic contact to improve their physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning. A pet owner and their pet go through testing, coursework, and registration (this takes money yet it’s all worth it). Once approved, the animal-therapy team is authorized (and should be covered by insurance) to provide visits at pre-determined levels of complexity.

You can read more about the truths and myths in the AAI world by visiting the resources listed below. Meanwhile, give credit to all the animals and people working in the AAI world who properly help advance our community’s health by being a presence.