Allowing therapy dogs in schools would give educators another tool to help children thrive in the classroom.
Maryland’s state legislative session is underway, and a bill of a “furry” nature is making its way through the chamber. HB 713 would allow schools to have therapy dogs into schools to offer comfort and support to students. The bill is in the early stages and concurrently moving through the Senate as SB409. Maryland currently has no law or rules for the use of therapy dogs in education, making it difficult for schools that want to have therapy dogs on campus. The law also provides rules for therapy dogs and their handlers.
The bill is sponsored by Senator Ben Kramer, D-Montgomery County. The senator drafted the bill after speaking with school social workers in his district. Canine therapy is already available through private programs across the state and the senator saw how it could be valuable in a school setting. Therapy dogs can be used to help students at all grade levels, including those with special needs. Dogs provide levity during breaks from learning, and can also help calm students who are nervous or upset.
The proposed law stipulates that all dogs be accompanied by a handler and the dog and handler must be trained through a certified training program. Schools will develop guidelines on when and where the dogs will be allowed to go within the schools and parents, teachers and staff are to be notified before a dog visits. The schools will also have to create a plan for people who are allergic or scared of dogs.
HB 713 has only had its first reading and still has several processes to go through until it can be amended and passed by both houses and signed by Governor Hogan. If everything goes as planned, the bill could become law in July of this year. This legislation would be in keeping with Anne Arundel's courtroom therapy dog program.
Do you agree therapy dogs should be welcome into public schools? Let us know in the comments.