Sudbury

First responders in Sudbury may soon get a dog to help them cope with stress

In the next couple of years, Greater Sudbury could have a type of therapy dog for its first responders.

Dog to offer support to those struggling with mental health, or after a critical incident

It could take up to two years for Greater Sudbury to acquire a trained facility dog from National Service Dogs. The price tag would be $10,000 for the dog initially, and $5,000 for every year after. (Miriam Katawazi/CBC )

Greater Sudbury could have a type of therapy dog for its first responders in the next couple of years.

The Emergency Services committee approved the decision to have a 'facility dog' shared between paramedics and fire services.

A facility dog is suited to work in a variety of environments and is accustomed to interacting with many different types of people.

Deputy Fire Chief Brian Morrison says the dog will visit workers at ambulance bases and fire stations after they respond to incidents.

"As part of their mental well-being and recovery from that event, the dog will move among the people in the room," Morrison said.

"And the research shows that they do have the ability to pick up on cortisol, which is a hormone that is released during stress, and the dog may actually focus on those individuals."

It could take up to two years for the city to acquire a trained facility dog from National Service Dogs. The price tag would be $10,000 for the dog initially, and $5,000 for every year after.

In addition to providing support to those struggling with mental health, Morrison says the dog may even be used in the immediate aftermath of a critical incident.

"The training is very specific to those sorts of events where the dog could potentially lean against an individual, put pressure on the individual and act as a distraction from that moment," he said.

"The dog may not go to all those critical situations. That will be an educated decision that is made by the peer support members."

National Service Dogs usually breeds and trains Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers.

Councillor Michael Vagnini was the only one to vote against the motion, saying it was not the right time to put money into an initiative like this. He also wanted more data on facility dogs. 

"Yes, a dog is a great thing, a great comfort. I've seen it and I've seen it work very well. I just think, where we are with COVID in trying to cut back, I can't support this," Vagnini said.

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