Typically the venue has an agreement with an organization to provide these visits. The main function of these dogs is to provide comfort and companionship to those they interact with.
Therapy Dogs do NOT have public access, with or without their handler, and they may only enter buildings (that don’t allow all pets to enter) with a direct invitation to the dog and handler, or to the organization.
If you'd like to get your dog certified or registered, here are some links to national organizations that provide the service.
There are also many local organizations, so do a google search, and you should find programs nearby.
The Paws'itive Teams program we're most involved with is the Canine Inspired Community Reintegration Program. We work with outpatient active duty injured service members (Marines, Navy, Army) from the Naval Medical Center with the primary goal to give patients the support, encouragement and optimism unique to canine therapy. We work directly under the guidance of the Recreation Therapist for six weeks which is designed to help patients recovering from PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury re-enter the community through establishing a greater sense of trust and less hyper-vigilance in public settings. Each service member participant is assigned a dog to handle during sessions which are held in a variety of community settings for two hours at a time over a six week period.
The goal of the program is for service members to experience a reduction in their anxiety and other PTSD symptoms by having a dog accompany them. Although the dogs are working as highly trained, certified goal directed therapy dogs, this program gives service members insight into what it would be like to have a service dog. The dogs are given special permission to accompany the service member in places that evoke anxiety such as Home Depot and a number of other places.
During one of the therapy sessions, Ricochet began working with a young girl who has autism and uses an iPad to speak. Ricochet was able to learn how to take cues from the synthesized voice of the application so the girl could communicate with her independently. Check out the video below to see it in action