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      Canine therapy brings health and wellness

      COLUMBIA (WACH) - A volunteer organization is promoting health and wellness in the community one wag at a time.

      Prescription Paws serves the Midlands by providing canine therapy to nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities. They also offer bite prevention programs for children at schools and libraries to teach kids how to be safe around dogs.

      Teoti Anderson founded the organization, which is an affiliate group of Pet Partners, ten years ago. Pet Partners is an international organization that promotes the human-animal bond.

      Anderson says her love for animals inspired her to use dogs for health and wellness.

      "I know that when people are in hospitals they're not able to be with their pets. I thought it would be wonderful if we have really friendly, outgoing dogs to share them with people, and it just kind of spiraled from there," said Anderson.

      Prescription Paws is invited by organizations to visit and provide comfort and companionship with their team of dogs.

      Anderson says they always make sure the groups are okay with pets before visiting, which includes making sure no one is allergic.

      The group of handlers and dog companions even go to the University of South Carolina to provide canine stress relief during exams.

      "We have more demand than we can actually fill these days," said Anderson.

      The handlers and the dogs have to complete training before being allowed to participate.

      According to Anderson, The people have to attend a workshop and pass an open book exam. The dogs have to have excellent obedience skills and be already trained.

      "[The dog and person] are tested as a team to simulate actual things that might happen during a therapy visit, and they have to pass the test," said Anderson.

      Their skills are rescreened every to years.

      All of the teams participate as volunteers. Prescription Paws does not get paid for its services.

      For more information on Prescription Paws, click here.