A bill about animal-assisted therapy services made it through the legislative session which ended this month and was sent to Governor Malloy last week for his signature. The bill requires the Department of Children and Families commissioner to develop a protocol to identify and mobilize animal-assisted critical incident response teams statewide. That's a change from just a canine crisis response team. The bill extends the deadline for this requirement to January 1st 2016.
It requires the teams to be available to provide animal-assisted activities, not just animal-assisted therapy. As under current law, the teams must operate on a volunteer basis and be available on 24 hours' notice. The team is defined in the bill's new language as a team of registered handlers and therapy animals that has been identified by DCF and can provide animal-assisted activities to individuals during and after traumatic events.
State Representative Diana Urban says this bill stemmed, in part, from the response to Newtown on 12-14. She says Allen's Angels, Canine First Responders, Soul Friends and Tails of Joy among others.
The bill also requires the DCF commissioner to develop a protocol by that deadline to identify and credential animal-assisted activity organizations and animal-assisted therapy providers in the state. The bill does not specify how DCF will credential the organizations and providers.
The DCF Commissioner must also develop and implement training for certain department employees and healthcare providers on the healing value of the human-animal bond for children, value of therapy animals in dealing with traumatic situations, and benefits of animal-assisted activities and therapy.
The measure passed the Senate unanimously.
There were just 9 votes in opposition in the state House. Several of those voters came from Greater Danbury area lawmakers. They are Newtown Representative Mitch Bolisnky, Cecilia Buck-Taylor of New Milford, Danbury Representative Dan Carter, Richard Smith of New Fairfield and Monroe Representative JP Sredzinski.