The pilot year of the Canine Student Teacher program is showing great benefits for both the dogs-in-training and the students who attend the participating schools. So far, the dogs have completed three training courses that cover a range of skills necessary for a successful working career in the schools such as impulse control around food and items on the ground, walking nicely on leash, greeting all people politely, and resting on a student’s lap to help with anxiety. The dogs recently changed volunteer handlers to gain additional experiences at different school settings and with different school routines (e.g., working with a school counselor or with a teacher in a self-contained classroom). Students are benefiting from visiting with the dogs on tough days, reading to the dogs, and earning rewards such as “Lunch with Luna”. Some of the benefits of this program were anticipated, but this program has also had benefits that far exceeded what Assistance Dogs predicted.
In the short time the Canine Student Teacher Program has been in existence, the lives of two students were lost in two separate accidents. The dogs and volunteer handlers were able to provide a therapeutic outlet for students and staff and bring some comfort among the sadness in the aftermath of both tragic events. This is the highest calling of a school facility dog and the Canine Student Teacher Program has created a way for dogs to impact the larger community even before they officially begin working. We look forward the positive work these dogs will continue to do as they move forward toward placement and graduation in July 2019.
For Immediate Release
Mallory Tarr, Community Relations Specialist
Assistance Dogs for Achieving Independence Receives $45,000 Grant from PetSmart Charities®
November 15, 2018— Sylvania, OH – Assistance Dogs knows that pets have the remarkable ability to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, improve our mood and bring us unconditional love. That’s why, with the help of a new $45,000 grant from PetSmart Charities, the organization is aiming to improve the quality of life for children in schools through The Canine Student Teacher Training Program. This initiative will start with three-month-old puppies going to live at Gus Harrison Prison in Adrian, Michigan. Alongside Assistance Dogs staff, select inmates at the prison will provide basic obedience training for six months. At that time, the nine-month-old dogs will be placed with a school therapy foster who will follow a training schedule designed for school facility dogs. The foster will work within the school alongside either a school counselor or school social worker. The dogs will be progressively introduced to and trained to assist the school staff in everyday interactions with students.
With this grant, Assistance Dogs will meet the rising demand for well-trained school facility dogs. Dogs who have been in training with Assistance Dogs and show potential for a successful school therapy placement can be enrolled in the program as young as 9 months of age. The dog is partnered with a teacher, counselor, or other appropriate school staff member to foster the dog in the school system as a Canine Student Teacher for one academic year. Weekly training classes led by Assistance Dogs staff are held at the North Central Ohio Education Service Center.
This structured and immersive training experience prepares dogs to graduate the following summer and be partnered with schools on Assistance Dogs’s wait list as working school facility dogs.
“We know the positive impact therapy dogs can have on individuals in a variety of situations, and we are especially excited to see this impact in the lives of children in a learning environment,” said Kelly Balthazor, regional relationship manager at PetSmart Charites. “Through support of the Canine Student Teacher Training Program, not only will school students and staff live the benefits of this program daily, but enrolled program inmates will have a therapeutic outlet that contributes to local communities.”
Last year alone, PetSmart Charities, the leading funder of animal welfare in North America, granted more than $1.8 million to support programs aimed at enhancing the quality of life for individuals through greater access to service animals and animal-assisted therapy programs. Funding from PetSmart Charities supports best practices that enhance the human-animal bond and find forever homes and families for pets in need. For more information, visit www.PetSmartCharities.org.
About The Ability Center
The Ability Center is a non-profit Center for Independent Living (CIL) serving northwest Ohio. The Ability Center believes in and supports equitable and inclusive communities for people living with disabilities. Our mission is to assist people with disabilities to live, work, and socialize within a fully accessible community. The Ability Center serves the seven counties of Lucas, Ottawa, Wood, Fulton, Henry, Defiance, and Williams.
About PetSmart Charities®
PetSmart Charities, Inc. is committed to finding lifelong, loving homes for all pets by supporting programs and thought leadership that bring people and pets together. Through its in-store adoption program in all PetSmart® stores across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, PetSmart Charities helps to find forever homes and families for more than 500,000 shelter pets each year. PetSmart Charities also provides grant funding to nonprofits aligned with its mission under four key areas of support: Preventing Pet Homelessness; Helping Shelter Pets Thrive; Supporting the Bond Between People and Pets and Providing Emergency Relief and Disaster Support. Each year, millions of generous PetSmart shoppers help pets in need by donating to PetSmart Charities using the PIN pads at checkout registers inside PetSmart stores. In turn, PetSmart Charities efficiently uses more than 90 cents of every dollar donated to fulfill its role as the leading funder of animal welfare in North America, granting almost $340 million since its inception in 1994. Independent from PetSmart Inc., PetSmart Charities is a 501(c)(3) organization that has received the Four-Star Rating from Charity Navigator, a third-party organization that reports on the effectiveness, accountability and transparency of nonprofits, for the past 15 years in a row – placing it among the top one percent of charities rated by this organization. To learn more visit www.petsmartcharities.org.
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