Victim Assistance Dog

Gretel and ShadowWe are pleased to announce that we will be awarding a Level II Facility Dog to the Peoria Police Department (PD) to assist them in starting a K9 Victim Assistance Program.  This vital service will bring much needed support and relief to crime victims and officers alike.

So- what is a Facility Dog?  This is a question that is often raised as there is much confusion created by conflicting nomenclature.  We often hear terms used such as therapy dog, victim assistance dog, court dog, comfort dog, emotional support animal, service dog, companion dog and more.  In order to eliminate confusion, the FSDS has devised a system of nomenclature that is a bit easier to understand.

Service dogs (SD) are those dogs trained to perform tasks to mitigate the disabilities of the handler.  Only a SD is entitled to public access under ADA law.

Victim assistance or court dogs are trained to perform work within a facility.  We designate three levels, and this is dependent upon the type of training that is needed to ensure that the dog can perform to standards:

  • Level I dogs are trained to work within the confines of a single facility.  Examples of a Level I dog are those dogs assigned to work with a therapist in an office setting, or to work with victims at a particular location.
  • Level II dogs are trained to provides services as above, but are also trained to do call-outs.  Examples of this are dogs that work with police officers and respond to crime scenes to provide on site comfort to victims and officers.
  • Level III dogs are trained to accompany victims into the courtroom to provide comfort during difficult testimonies.

We are providing the Peoria PD with  Level II dog, a purebred male Golden Retriever with a sweet and gentle nature.  He is being trained by a local teen, Amanda Van Asdall, who at just 15 years of age is already raising her 3rd dog with the FSDS.  The handler for the Peoria PD will be Det. Gretel Hopkins.  Det. Hopkins is assigned to the Special Victims Unit, and we believe is the ideal candidate for this job.  She is dedicated to the citizens of Peoria, compassionate, motivated to succeed and has a keen ability to connect with others.  Det. Hopkins is a wonderful addition to our class and we are expecting great success.

Dogs such as this are expensive to train, and the cost is not being passed along to the police department.  Nonetheless, there is always a cost.  If you would like to find out how you, or your local community business or group can get involved in helping us to support this vital program, please contact us directly.  It is our expectation that over the working life of this team, they will bring desperately needed relief and services to thousands of crime victims.  Kudos to the Peoria PD for taking steps to launch this vital and innovative program.

Classroom News

Beginner Class –  the beginner class will officially meet for the first time on Saturday, Nov. 4th.  Stay tuned for information next month.

Advanced Class – the teams have been hard at work this past month, between public events and classroom exercises.  The final teams took their Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Test this past month and they have all passed.  The CGC test is the first of three skill tests that a team must pass on the road to becoming a certified team.

A Warm Welcome

This  past month we are pleased to welcome two more military veterans to our program.

  • Diana Woodrum is an Army veteran who was stationed in Korea.  She is being awarded a SD in recognition of her service to our nation to assist with various medical needs.
  • Brian Brown is a decorated Navy Veteran and worked as a combat medic embedded with a US Marine unit.  He was wounded in the line of duty and will be awarded a SD to assist with multiple needs.

We are also pleased to welcome one our our STAR student trainers to the SD Trainer Academy:

  • Amanda Van Asdall is currently training her 3rd dog for the FSDS.  She plans to continue training additional dogs.  Amanda is currently working to complete her Level I: Novice Trainer classes.

Impact Statements

In the months that follow, we will be working to follow up with our past recipients to learn more about how their SD has impacted their lives.  Though we work on task training, and the general public as a vague idea that SDs help people, there are always impacts that most would not imagine.  This past week, we were provided with valuable feedback from a past recipient, that underscores the value of a SD and paints a much clearer picture of how the cost to train is justified by the physical and financial benefits to both recipient and society.   This recipient noted some additional benefits that include:

  • Prior to receiving the SD, the recipient was on 7-8 medications for PTSD, she is now off all meds, sparing not only cost for her and her insurance carrier, but eliminating all of the adverse side effects that these meds caused
  • Prior to her SD, she experienced approximately 4-5 costly hospitalizations per year for medical emergencies; since receiving her SD who is able to provide early alert to problems and allow her to intervene in time, she has not had any hospitalizations for medical emergencies
  • Her diabetes was not well controlled and her A1c level was 6.9; it is now 5.1 and her condition is in good control
  • Her blood pressure is under control; prior to her SD she was on 4 different meds, now she takes only one medication
  • Her out of pocket medical bills were running as high as $3,000/year, since receiving her SD there have been no out of pocket expenses
  • Her SD has learned to alert her to migraines, prior to her SD she had no warning and was experiencing migraines resulting in her being confined to bed 2-3 days in a row, her dog now alerts allowing her to take meds early and there have been no more such episodes

We will continue to monitor our recipients.  This really is a wake up call for medical insurance agencies, and it is our belief that if carriers were to provide benefits to assist individuals in receiving their SDs, the cost would far outweigh the expenses.

Wellness Tip

This month we focus on the importance of preventive care for your SD.  So many dogs suffer as a result of problems that are potentially preventable.  We remind all of our readers to pursue prevention, rather than intervention, whenever possible.

Regular inspection of your dog combined with regularly scheduled Vet visits for wellness checks can often detect problems at an early stage, when treatable.  Some routine things you will want to check on your dog include but are not limited to:

  • check paws after exercise or play outdoors to ensure that there are no injuries
  • monitor the weight of your dog to ensure they are not overweight; ensure that your dogs diet is AAFCO approved
  • inspect the mouth to ensure that the gums are a healthy pink color, teeth are not discolored or broken and there are no foul breath odors that may signal disease; brush teeth regularly
  • inspect the coat and skin for evidence of hot spots, dryness, bites, lumps or other problems
  • nail care – if you can hear the nails “clicking” on the floor when your dog walks – it is time for a nail trimming
  • ear care – avoid the use of Q-tips; clean your dogs ears using cotton pad or gauze pad soaked with an ear cleaning solution designed for dogs; check for signs of ticks
  • emotional wellness – never underestimate the importance of quality bonding time to ensure the happiness of your dog
  • Speak with your veterinarian to schedule regular wellness checks and vaccine updates

Thank You

Our sincere thanks to the following for their support of our mission during the month of October:

  • Valerie Schluter
  • Judy Sedich
  • CR Bard Peripheral Vascular
  • Casino Arizona

Upcoming Events

Nov. 1st – Bard Peripheral Vascular (Bard PV) Employee Health & Wellness Fair from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Photo Gallery

Enjoy some photos of our teams at the recent G.A.I.N. Event in Peoria.  Our staff and teams were on hand to provide hands on demonstrations on canine first aid and CPR.  Event-goes of all ages took their turn, including one very precious little boy who with a boost from Dad practiced his new skills.

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