Sudbury to make use of ‘facility canine’ as a psychological well being measure

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It will go where it belongs to help fire fighters and paramedics deal with traumatic issues.

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Mary Katherine Keown

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February 19, 2021 • • 1 hour ago • • Read 4 minutes Golden Retrievers are considered excellent candidates for becoming a facility dog.  Postmedia file Golden Retrievers and Labradors are considered excellent candidates to become Facility Dogs. POSTMEDIA FILE PHOTO

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The town’s newest potential recruit is sure to be one of the most popular.

The emergency services committee voted on Wednesday to proceed with the request for a facility dog ​​to be shared between paramedics and the fire department.

Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini expressed some concerns about the size and design of the program, as well as the need to contain spending in the coming year. The council has to cut about $ 14 million from the city’s budget for 2021, largely due to the local government’s response to COVID-19. Ultimately, Vagnini voted against the resolution, but he was left alone. His colleagues – including Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti, Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc and Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre – everyone voted for the dog buddy. Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier said he voted yes: “Now that I know it’s not a Dalmatian.”

“A facility dog ​​has a calming effect on those who are very excited or very emotional. It helps normalize a traumatic situation and improve a sense of security and well-being,” said Paul Kadwell, assistant director of emergency services. “A facility dog ​​acts as an icebreaker for difficult conversations and provides a healthy and positive distraction for troublesome matters.”


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Research shows that “people who interact with animals found that petting the animal promoted the release of serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin,” a staff report said. These three hormones play roles in increasing mood, reducing anxiety, promoting relaxation, providing comfort, reducing loneliness, and increasing mental stimulation.

The city plans to acquire the dog through National Service Dogs. The charity will train the dog to be available to first responders who are struggling with mental health due to work-related stress. Research has shown that working dogs such as B. Facility dogs, support the healing process and improve the bottom line.

“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 preventive mental health support programs to reduce WSIB costs.”

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 ”explained.

As Joseph Nicholls, general manager for community safety, said, “The dog will go where it needs to go to help members cope with traumatic issues.” He becomes all first responders, including paramedics, as well as careers and careers Volunteer firefighters are available. As Brian Morrison, the assistant fire chief explained, this is not a dog that is closely related to a person. Instead, this pooch wants to be everyone’s best friend.


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The community safety department is about to file an application for a dog with National Service Dogs. It’s a long-term plan as it can take up to two years to acquire the pooch. It costs about $ 10,000 to buy. After that, veterinary care, grooming, and nutrition cost about $ 5,000 annually. With an average weight of 70 pounds, most facility dogs are more likely to be larger breeds.

Start-up costs will be “covered by a one-time provincial funding for mental health programs to address occupational stress injuries in first responders,” the report said. The annual costs are shared in the Community Security Operating Budget.

While the facility dog ​​lives with his dog handler and his family (the dog handler is an employee of the paramedic or the fire brigade), this little dog is not a pet. This is a working dog with roles and responsibilities. While on duty, the animal is expected to put on the working dog vest.

Facility dogs have been specifically bred and selected to do their job based on temperament, health, and personality. They passed rigorous testing.

“You are not a pet, family dog, or family 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. “


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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.”

Unsurprisingly, Kadwell said the dog would likely be a Golden Retriever or a Labrador, or a mix of both. He said National Service Dogs worked a little with poodles, but they are not a preferred breed.

The dog remains the property of National Service Dogs; However, the costs are borne by the municipality.

“When there are no station visits, the dog is assigned a specific location to interact with community security personnel during shift start, training, staff 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 concluded.
Twitter: @marykkeown
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