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As long as your dog is calm and friendly you are half way there. They have to be passed as a Therapy dog.

While I don't know of any legal requirement for certification I agree 100% that it should be done. First it is just as foolish to visit without insurance as it is to drive without insurance. You don't have to be wrong to be sued, and defending a law suit is expensive. Second, quite a few dog owners are in need of a reality check. If all, or even most, dog owners were accurate in evaluating their dogs there would be no need to for an objective evaluation. But lots of dogs do fail objective evaluation.
Sometimes it is because the person isn't realistic about the qualities of the dog, but more often it is because the person doesn't realize how different the visiting environment can be and how it can affect the dog. Dogs visiting must NOT retaliate even when they are abused. Should they be abused? NO! of course not. The handler has a
responsibility to prevent it. But many of the people visited are not "in their right mind" and they will do things like pinching a dog. While the law gives a right for the dog to defend itself this simply cannot be permitted to happen in the visit environment. The dog absolutely must get out of the situation WITHOUT retaliation of any kind.
It includes making sure they are not spooked by sudden noises .

And high pitched noises, rasping breathing, hoarse noisey breathing, swinging canes and walkers, wheelchairs, screaming and shouting (very common in altzheimer units) refusing food, ignoring food set in front of their noses, not searching for food on the ground, paying attention to the people and not other dogs during a visit., not attempting to play with another dog during a visit, ignoring urine bags, not sniffing at personal areas of people, not jumping at a person even when invited (because the
person doing the inviting may lack competence - must wait for handler permission) and more. Of course people DO visit with pet dogs without checking all this out and people DO visit without incident. BUT it is not only risky to the dog to not clear for all this stuff but each incident that manages to happen threatens such programs in all facilities.
You can handle your dog if there was a crisis where you were visiting. You have done obedience...so you know ... pass you will pay a yearly fee. That covers you with insurance...peace of mind. Most placed will require the certificate.

Well they OUGHT to, but many don't.
Diane Blackman
All of my dogs born in and since 1983 (except the too-young pup) have been registered as Therapy Dogs, starting in 1988. They've loved it... and each has had a favorite type of work to do.
I've been a tester/observer for Therapy Dogs, Incorporated, for over 10 years, and have taught classes and seminars on the subject.. and have enjoyed seeing the program expand in Georgia and South Carolina... regardless of the registering organizations involved. And it's pure joy to see dogs that came into our obedience classes for the dog club or private training school as air-headed, bouncey pups come back as nicely-mannered adults, pass the test and become eagerly remembered dogs at the facilities we visit.
The certification/registration really is increasingly necessary to go into more and more facilities.. and that liability insurance is critical. And the national groups all have some type of newsletter or magazine.
Local vets and obedience instructors, even if not active in pet therapy themselves, can usually direct you to people who are. None of the national, registering/certifying organizations is "better" than another.. each is just a bit different in testing and operating rules. Their local affiliates each have their own rules about membership, meetings, training programs, participation requirements, etc. In some cities, only one national is represented, and in others there are more choices.
GO FOR IT!
Jo Wolf
Martinez, Georgia
I have to have the requirement here in the UK.
Well that is the requirement of P.A.T organization of which I belong. Plus insurance has to be taken each year.
It is not that the dog may do anything.
It is also in case if someone should fall over the dog and hurt their self. Pat.
I have to have the requirement here in the UK.

I've not heard of it as a legal requirement. The OP asked "Does he need to obtain a certification to visit nursing homes, hospitals, etc.?" So far as I know any testing/certification requirements are strictly the policy of the facility and/or a particular organization and can be avoided by seeking a facility without such a requirement (of which there are many) and by not belonging to an organization. I believe that such a route is not a good choice, but the information is accurate that there is no legal requirement.
Well that is the requirement of P.A.T organization of which I belong.

Well, of course. It would be a requirement for any responsible organization. But I don't know of any legal requirement that someone belong to an organization. If the facility is willing I believe that legally it is up to the facility to take foolish chances if they wish. Thus the OP does not "need" to get certification, although they are well advised to do so. I've been running my web site for about eight years now and am aware of the large numbers of people who have begun visiting purely on the basis that the facility permits it, without any form of certification or insurance.

Our group also requires certification. Nonetheless several of the facilities allow dogs to visit without requiring certification or any form of testing at all, not even cursory, and there is no clearance, release of liability, or insurance involved. Its just a person bringing their beloved pet into the facility with the permission of the same.
Plus insurance has to be taken each year.

It is absolutely the responsible thing to do. I've not heard of it as a legal requirement, however, and so far as I know the facility is free allow visiting without it if they choose, as is the person visiting.
It is not that the dog may do anything. It is also in case if someone should fall over the dog and hurt theirself.

That is correct.
In terms of responding to a post you may find that your responses are easier to put in context if you interlineate them as I have. Top posting makes it difficult to put your responses in context.
Diane Blackman