Metropolis seeks ‘facility canine’ to assist with employees stress

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Mary Katherine Keown

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February 16, 2021 • • 4 hours ago • • Read 4 minutes Ryan Coburn, Mississauga Fire Department chief; and service dog Ajax, a fully trained and accredited facility dog ​​who helps fire department members address trauma and mental health issues through “canine-assisted interventions”. The City of Greater Sudbury is requesting permission to purchase a community security dog ​​through National Service Dogs. The dog buddy helps first responders struggling with mental health due to work-related stress. The puppy is shared between the fire brigade and paramedics. Photo by MEGAN STACEY / Postmedia

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The city is looking for its own very good boy or girl to sign up for (compassionate) duty.

At next week’s Rescue Services Committee meeting, staff will seek approval to purchase a community security dog ​​through National Service Dogs.

The dog buddy helps first responders struggling with mental health due to work-related stress. The puppy is shared between the fire brigade and paramedics (not a word yet on whether the city has used a Dalmatian for services).

“A facility dog ​​is owned and trained by National Service Dogs, a nonprofit certified by Assistance Dog International,” said an employee report released to the committee next week.

Unlike service dogs who perform specific tasks for their owners or emotional support dogs that provide therapeutic benefits to owners, facility dogs “are adapted and used to work in a variety of settings with many different types of people to interact ”.

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“The facility dog’s role is to provide an additional option for all employees to provide preventive mental health support by providing a healthy and positive distraction from disorders and aiding the healing process. Facility dogs also help break down communication barriers and allow employees to speak freely about mental health. “

This is a new initiative. The report notes that the community security department is currently filing an application with National Service Dogs to show their interest in acquiring a facility dog. It’s a long-term plan as it can take up to two years to acquire a dog.

“The aim of this initiative is to set up a facility dog ​​that will provide an additional preventive mental health program to support the community security staff and will lower the WSIB’s demands and costs in the future,” the employee report said.

The puppy will cost about $ 10,000 to purchase, and then about $ 5,000 per year thereafter. With an average weight of 70 pounds, most facility dogs are more likely to be larger breeds.

“The initial startup cost for the facility dog ​​is approximately $ 10,000. These costs will be covered by a one-time provincial funding for mental health programs aimed at treating first responders for occupational stress injuries, ”the report said. “The estimated annual cost for the facility dog ​​is approximately $ 5,000. These costs are shared in the municipality’s operating budget for security. “

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However, that money is nothing compared to the cost of providing frontline services, sometimes during traumatic events.

“In the past two years, WSIB costs related to psychological claims by community security personnel have increased to more than $ 1 million,” the report said. “Community Safety continues to explore preventative mental health support programs to reduce WSIB costs.”

Research shows that interacting with dogs is both mentally and physically beneficial for those struggling with their mental health and who have experienced trauma.

Research also shows that “People who interact with animals found that petting the animal promoted the release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin,” the report said.

These three hormones play roles in increasing mood, reducing anxiety, promoting relaxation, providing comfort, reducing loneliness, and increasing mental stimulation.

“A facility dog ​​program provides a calming impact on those who are very excited or very emotional. It helps normalize traumatic situations and improve feelings of security and well-being,” the report said.

“The facility dog ​​acts as an icebreaker for difficult conversations and distracts disturbing things in a healthy and positive way.”

Facility dogs live with their handlers and their families, but are not pets. They are working dogs with roles and responsibilities.

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They have been specially bred and selected to do their job based on temperament, health, and personality. They work with those in need of emotional support and they have passed rigorous testing.

“It is important to note that a facility dog ​​is a working dog. They are not a pet, family dog, or community safety mascot, ”the report said. “Facility dogs are part of a specially trained dog / dog handler team that offers targeted interventions to improve physical, social, emotional or cognitive skills. A facility dog’s activities are led by a professional dog handler with specialized knowledge. “

The dog works in a variety of environments and the handler “is responsible for scheduling regular visits to community security facilities so staff can interact with the dog,” the report said. “The dog is also used after tragic events to support employees in de-escalating their personal stress levels.”

The dog remains the property of National Service Dogs; However, its expenses such as food, nursing and veterinary care are covered by the community.

“When there are no station visits, the dog is assigned a specific location to interact with community security personnel during shift starts, training and retention, etc. The handler’s schedule will be changed later this year to allow for the entire community of security guards to connect with the facility’s dog, ”the report said.

“The facility dog ​​always wears a vest when he is on duty or available. The vest is not needed when the dog is not on duty. “

mkkeown@postmedia.com

Twitter: @marykkeown

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