Therapy dogs to be more accessible in Nanaimo-Ladysmith schools

Therapy dogs to be more accessible in Nanaimo-Ladysmith schools
A St. John’s Ambulance therapy dog is pictured.

Access to therapy dogs will be possible in Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools following an update to an administrative procedure.

NLPS has updated its administrative procedure (AP) on animals in school settings to allow more general use of service dogs, Acting Superintendent Laura Tait told the education committee at their March 6 meeting. Previously the AP had a narrower focus, limiting service animals to individual circumstances such as visual guide dogs.

“What we have been seeing and welcoming the notion around animal support is a little bit of a universal nature,” Tait said. “That could be an animal that supports more generally in a classroom or in a counselling area” for circumstances such as alleviating stress and anxiety, for example.

“The AP is a statement of an expansion” while keeping in mind safety concerns such as possible allergies of students, Secretary-Treasurer Mark Walsh said.

The school district was approached by St. John’s Ambulance Nanaimo to deliver its therapy dog program in NLPS, a staff memo says. The updated AP opens the door for that to happen, staff said. The program involves a volunteer and their dog going to community settings such as schools and hospitals. Situations involve individuals interacting with the dog or participating in an activity or event while the volunteer and dog are present. NLPS staff said two schools are already exploring the program.

“I’m really glad to see this happening,” Trustee Naomi Bailey said. “I think this is a really beautiful move.”

As outlined in the previous AP, notification letters would go out to the school community about the intention of bringing a service dog in prior to an event.

SEE ALSO: Nanaimo school district’s cellphone restriction policy will include public consultation

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

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