PEI

More therapy dogs planned for P.E.I.

St. John Ambulance wants to double its dog therapy program on P.E.I. after getting a $10,000 grant from the Canadian Medical Association and the CMA Foundation.

St. John Ambulance hopes to sign up 25 more dogs and volunteers to visit Island seniors

Trip became a volunteer therapy dog recently for St. John Ambulance. (St John Ambulance NS/PEI/Facebook)

St. John Ambulance wants to double its dog therapy program on P.E.I. after getting a $10,000 grant from the Canadian Medical Association and the CMA Foundation. 

Currently there are about 25 volunteers and their dogs visiting nursing homes on the Island. 

"We do definitely see a big need over there," said Robert Howlett, the St. John Ambulance community services co-ordinator for Nova Scotia and P.E.I. 

"There's been a lot of requests from facilities." 

There are at least 10 nursing homes with requests for dogs to visit but none available, Howlett said. 

Spending time with and patting dogs is good for people, decreasing loneliness and stress, he noted. 

'Looking for friendly, calm responses'

The money should allow the group to evaluate and train at least 25 more dogs and volunteers over the next year. 

Dogs must be at least a year old to apply. St. John Ambulance also requires a police record check for volunteers and a current veterinary record of health. 

"We put them through an evaluation that basically simulates what they'd see when they go into a nursing home environment," Howlett said.

"We're looking for friendly, calm responses from the dog." Dogs then visit a designated nursing home, school or mental health facility for about an hour a week. 

St. John Ambulance is one of 14 groups to receive a grant from the medical association.

More P.E.I. news

With files from Laura Chapin

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