Experts Question Dog's Certification

The battle between a Texoma family and the Wichita Falls Independent School District continues over a teacher's dog that the family says bit their daughter, Madyson, on the face two separate times. The district agreed to settle the matter, only after the family hired an attorney. The family wants the child's medical bill's paid for and an apology.

The District says the animal that bit the child is a Certified Therapy Dog through an American Kennel Club program called the Canine Good Citizen Program. The Director of Communications for the AKC says that program is not meant to certify a dog for therapy use.

Local dog expert and trainer Eamon Riley says the AKC-CGC Program is excellent for its intended purpose, but agrees it is not meant to credential therapy animals. "The CGC is designed to award good behavior, the Canine Good Citizen Award." (Reporter asks)"So, that just means it's a good dog... it's well-mannered?" "Yes, it's a good dog."  (Reporter asks) "But, not a Therapy Dog?" "Not a Therapy Dog." (Reporter asks) "Should that dog that was in that classroom have been a Certified Therapy Dog?" "Yes, of course! Anytime you are going to bring a dog into a public place and say that this is a Service Dog or this is a Therapy Dog, that dog needs to be certified through the proper associations." (Reporter asks) "And that's not CGC?" "That's definitely not the CGC."

Riley says Certified Therapy Dogs go through months if not years of highly specialized training before they are independently certified by one of several nationally recognized organizations. Riley says the rigorous training is to help prevent things like what Madyson Cushenbery says happened to her in December 2009 and again in January 2010.

Madyson recounts the first encounter with Mabel, her 2nd Grade teacher's English Mastiff. "I was just sitting and everyone else was just hugging her and petting her and all of that and then I went to hug her cause we had to get up and when I went to go hug her she bit me." (Reporter asks) "And all you were doing was giving the doggy a hug?" "Yes."

Page 18 of The AKC Evaluators Guide for the CGC Program talks about using CGC dogs as Therapy Dogs. It says that the test is used as a partial screening tool for Therapy Dogs. You can view the form used to evaluate dogs for the CGC by clicking on the links to the left.

Paul Harrop, Newschannel 6