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NSCD School Board reviewing therapy animals

The Natrona County School District Board of Trustees is reviewing its policy regarding therapy animals. They discussed the issue at their board meeting Monday, Jan. 28.

Gracie, Manor Heights' therapy dog, welcomes students on the playground Tuesday, September 4. (Brittani Wert, Oil City)

The Natrona County School District Board of Trustees is reviewing its policy regarding therapy animals. They discussed the issue at their board meeting Monday, Jan. 28.

NCSD administrative regulation policy 6900, which can be viewed here, allows animals to be in the classroom for instructional purposes. The policy does not specifically outline training requirements for therapy animals, such as the therapy dogs found in some schools. The dogs are meant to provide some benefits for students.

“Therapy animals work in animal-assisted activities and animal-assisted therapy,” the administrative policy says.

Board member Debbie McCullar explained one reason the district wants to review the policy during the board meeting.

“There were a lot of therapy dogs, let’s put it that way,” McCullar said. “But they may not have been trained as therapy dogs.”

The policy regulating animals in the classroom acknowledges that there are some safety risks.

“However, risks can be mitigated by careful handling, adequate training, and other precautions,” the policy reads.

NCSD Public Relations Officer Tanya Southerland further explained the purpose of the review in an email to Oil City.

“The Board Policy Committee is currently reviewing policy on therapy animals in the schools to ensure we have a consistent process across the District for any school who wishes to explore the option of a therapy animal in the building,” she wrote.

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