Lawmakers Consider Bill to Introduce Therapy Dogs in New Jersey Schools

Young Girl Being Visited In Hospital By Therapy Dog

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Lawmakers in New Jersey are considering legislation to introduce therapy dogs into elementary school classrooms. The proposed bill, championed by Congressman Anthony Bucco, seeks to establish a pilot program integrating therapy dogs in public elementary school wellness initiatives.

Therapy dogs have a unique role in providing comfort and reducing stress and anxiety in various settings, including schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. Their calm demeanor and friendly nature make them ideal companions. Although therapy dogs can be any breed, their effectiveness is determined more by their individual temperament.

The introduction of this bill is supported by research underscoring the positive impact therapy dogs can have on relieving stress and anxiety symptoms. These issues are increasingly prevalent among students, exacerbated by the upheaval and uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill proposes that the Commissioner of Education would choose two school districts from each region - southern, central, and northern - of the State to participate in a three-year pilot program. This strategy ensures a broad representation of schools benefiting from the program.

The therapy dogs involved in the program would be required to receive certification from recognized organizations, such as the Alliance of Therapy Dogs or the Canine Companions Therapy Dog Certification Program. These organizations provide essential services including registration, support, and insurance for members, guaranteeing the dogs are suitably prepared for their roles.

Therapy dogs, while similar, are distinct from service dogs and emotional support animals. Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities, while emotional support animals offer comfort through their mere presence.

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