Facility dogs are becoming increasingly popular as we continue to gain understanding of the benefits of human-canine interactions. This past month we were proud to provide the Peoria PD with a Level II facility Dog for Crisis Response work. This dog will work to comfort crime victims of all ages, as well as officers who have been assigned to work at heinous crime scenes. In the week that followed graduation we were contacted by two more departments who are seeking trained and certified facility dogs to serve.
A study this past month that was released by the Ruderman Family Foundation calls to attention the problem of suicides in first responders. This study notes that a first responder is more likely to die of suicide than from a line of duty injury. A second and unrelated study examines the issue of PTSD in military veterans who pursue careers in law enforcement. A third study that examines physical parameters that suggest stress and/or PTSD in first responders notes that in addition to the development of PTSD, first responders exhibit changes in biological markers that may contribute to future disability.
The evidence continues to mount, and a dialogue in our community is taking place. The need for early intervention can not be denied. Yet, many departments faced with budget shortfalls are unable to afford the types of services that are needed to provide early intervention by trained crisis response canines. This is despite mounting evidence of the effectiveness of these programs.
In an effort to save money, some departments are turning to “wash-out” dogs from other training programs to use for crisis response work. The FSDS does not support these decisions, and it continues to be our belief that such dogs should be highly trained and able to complete a training and certification program in order to provide the level of services needed.
We are proud to run the only distinct training and certification process for facility dogs at three levels:
- Level I facility dogs are trained to work within the confines of a particular facility, such as a family advocacy center.
- Level II facility dogs are trained to assist in crisis response for agencies such as police departments.
- Level III facility dogs are trained to accompany crime victims, particularly abused children, to court.
It is important for all to remember that training is NOT just about the dog, it is about producing a confident, competent and well-functioning team that is equipped with the skills to respond to a variety of challenges. This takes time. There is no such thing as an “instant facility dog”.
Another interesting statistics worth noting is that military service has long been a pipeline for first responder careers, with many departments averaging 25-30% of their workforce as military veterans. These veterans, as noted above, are at an increased risk of PTSD, and suicide. Divorce rates, problems at work and issues that spill over into every aspect of their lives occur in this population at rates higher than civilians. Thus, what has been identified in the first responder population is a “pocket of unserved veterans”. We must not wait until a problem such as PTSD develops, but rather come up front and dedicate resources designed to prevent the problem from happening in the first place.
The FSDS is proud to serve our armed forces and first responders. We are a program of non-exclusion. This means that we do not exclude individuals based on era of service, whether or not the injury had a readily apparent job connection (such as a line of duty shooting), or whether or not they are able to train a dog for their own needs. We work with individuals at all levels.
It is time for society to re-frame the issue of disabilities in first responders. In many cases, there will not be one dramatic incident that leads to disability. Disability in this population must be viewed as a “work in progress” starting on day one. It stems from the cumulative effects of both physical and emotional stresses that are associated with the job, and ultimately catches up with an individual. When that happens, we must reach out to remove the stigmas associated with seeking help and care for those who have risked their lives for our sake.
CB8 (Beginner) Class – Congratulations to this hard working class on making a fine showing at our recent graduation exercise. The puppies were very well-behaved, a direct reflection of the hard work that our students are putting into their training.
Spring has arrived, and with it comes warmer weather. Along with this, however, comes the reality of monsoon, hurricane and wildfire season. The time to prepare for such emergencies is before a disaster strikes. Be certain to have a plan in place, and rehearse this plan with all family members. Your plan should include safeguards for your two and four-legged family members.
Your plan should include the following:
- Escape route – if you have a two story home you should have a plan in place for safely evacuating small children and animals; rope ladders work for older children and adults, but your SD will not be able to negotiate a rope ladder to climb to safety, they must be lowered down.
- Meeting place – in cases where family may be evacuating from multiple locations a plan to meet at a safe location and communicate along the way should be put in place.
- Rehearsals – practice your plan in advance to avoid those “first time” errors that may be caused by panic during an actual emergency.
Shelter – your plan should consider where you will stay in the event that you are faced with a need to evacuate your home and can not return.
- Red Cross shelters accept SDs, however, they are able to make determinations regarding which animals appear credible, and which do not.
- Call you local Red Cross in advance and request information on the types of information you will need to present.
- Make provisions to safeguard important documents and have them readily accessible; this may mean scanning in all training, certification and veterinary records and saving them on a “Drive” that can be remotely accessed in times of crisis.
- Make certain that your vaccinations and county license tags are current; remember that a current county license tag signals rabies vaccination is current; shelters must factor in public health considerations and may exclude dogs with no apparent proof of vaccination.
Items to pack for your SD if time permits:
- vest, booties and other working equipment
- life jacket if flooding is an issue
- hard copies of medical records, or a device such as a Smart Phone that will permit you to remotely access records
- food and water
- travel bowls / water bottles
- clean up supplies
- a comfort item for your SD to help relieve stress
- a battery powered fan and spare batteries in hot weather
Be prepared, stay safe.
Our sincere thanks to the many individuals and groups that have made our 10th anniversary possible, and our recent graduation ceremony a big success.
- Arizona Disabled Veterans Foundation
- Armed Forces Support Group of Sun City Grand
- Casino AZ
- Cathy Barksdale
- Chicanos Por La Causa
- Corinne McAuley
- CR Bard
- DAV Auxiliary Unit 1
- Del E. Webb Foundation
- Desert Diamond Casino AZ
- Jay Davies – Peoria PD
- Lisa Mattox – Peoria PD
- Melody Lamon, Photographer
- Peoria PD Youth Explorer Post
- Pet Planet of Peoria AZ
- Puparazzi Mobile Pet Grooming
- Silver Rose Bakery / Mike and Priscilla Sweet
- Sundt Foundation
- Valerie Schluter
- Westbrook Village Veterans Support Club
…and an extra special thank you to our student trainers and parents and to the many individuals, too numerous to count, who have assisted us along the way.
With the advent of the hot weather season, none at this time.