SPCA launches new therapy program

The Red Deer and District SPCA is launching a new program aimed at allowing people and their pets to give back to the community.

The K9 Community Outreach Pet Visitation Program will allow owners and their pets to visit community facilities.

An information session for anyone interested in volunteering for the program will be held on Jan. 23 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the SPCA. Those wishing to attend are asked to email volunteer@reddeerspca.com to register.

“The benefits of pet visitation are very well documented and we’re looking at any interactions with companion animals that provide those positive health results which could be seen in seniors’ care centres, hospitals, in long-term care centres and any other community agencies where there may be a need,” said Arminnie Good, SPCA volunteer coordinator. “Down the road we are also looking to add schools and potentially an SPCA reading program to that.”

She added the organization is looking for volunteers who are committed to giving back to their community and who have a good relationship with their companion animal.

“We are looking for people who are interested in working together with that companion animal to help provide some visitation – so some social interaction, or simply just some time with the animal that would benefit the people that are in those situations. They don’t have to necessarily be outgoing, they do need to be willing to visit with people and bring a different aspect of community involvement in those longer term or resident-type facilities,” said Good.

She added the hope is to also provide a drop-in visitation session at the SPCA as well.

“People who are living independently but who would benefit from that type of socialization would have a chance to come to us.”

Good said those interested would go through an evaluation test with their pet.

“We do the evaluation in groups of four so that we can see the dog interact with other people and other dogs as well,” she said. If chosen, Good said it would be hoped that the volunteer would commit one to two hours per week.

Tara Hellewell, executive director of the Red Deer SPCA said the organization is excited about the new initiative.

“This program supports the strategic community focus that our humane society has taken since moving into the new facility in 2010. We continue to add to our human support services to ensure that we are the leaders in human/animal relationship building and progressive partners with community agencies that serve the most vulnerable members of our society. We hope that this program will give a vital gift of animal love and affection to support lifesaving care and reach out to those most in need. Yes the Red Deer SPCA cares for animals, but we really care about the people who love those animals too,” she said.