GREAT FALLS — The Great Falls Public Schools Board of Trustees on Monday evening unanimously approved a policy regarding therapy animals.
“It’s gotten to the point where there needs to be some type of regulation around it, some sense of what’s reasonable and what’s appropriate,” GFPS superintendent Tom Moore said.
Moore says the use of therapy animals is increasing and the board felt a need to create a policy.
“The policy needed to be enacted by the district to bring some regulation to what seems to be an increase in the use of therapy animals at schools,” Moore said.
The written proposal says the district supports the use of therapy animals by teachers, students and staff but those individuals will now have to jump some hurdles if the wish to continue to bring them into the schools.
“At the last board meeting, that policy was introduced. That particular policy has a fairly extensive language in it about governing therapy animals in the school district,” Moore said.
Since the last board meeting, there have been no recommendations or public input.
The animal will now need prior approval from the superintendent or a designee.
The handler will have to show proof of training, vaccinations, certifications and good behavior or control.
“It provides some continuity and regulation so that we don’t just have people bringing animals into the school setting without some kind of guidance and perimeters around it,” Moore said.
The policy goes on to state that the owner is required to remove the therapy animal from school premises immediately if a staff or student is having an allergic reaction or if the animal causes injuries or damage to school property.
Moore says he wants the public to know the distinct difference between a therapy animal and a service animal.
“Service animals are legally afforded to individuals with disabilities. That’s not a question. Service animals are when you think of seeing eye dogs or service animals that aid with handicap individuals or people with disabilities, that’s a different type of animal entirely,” Moore said. “Therapy animals have a different categorical recognition and it really isn’t afforded individuals the opportunity under law.”
During Monday’s meeting the board introduced amendments to the service animal policy. Those will be approved at the next board meeting and can be found here: