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Zebra Child Protection Centre welcomes 3rd support dog

Wren and Fossey are partners with the Zebra Child Protection Centre in Edmonton, September 6, 2013.
Wren and Fossey are partners with the Zebra Child Protection Centre in Edmonton, September 6, 2013. Ross Neitz, Global News

The Zebra Child Protection Centre welcomed Fletcher into the fold Sunday. The Yellow Lab graduated from Dogs with Wings‘ victim services program as part of its Very Important Paws (VIP) Program.

In his VIP role, Fletcher will help staff support children during forensic interviews and through the judicial process at the Edmonton Law Courts.

Since November 2015, when Fletcher arrived, he has participated in 62 court preparations, accompanied 66 children to court and sat with 34 children on the stand in Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench.

READ MORE: Edmonton’s first courtroom dog provides comfort to young sexual abuse victim

Testifying in court and sharing their experiences with staff at the centre can be overwhelming for a child.

“Having the silent and non-judgmental comfort of a dog can give a child the confidence and security to disclose their experiences of abuse,” Zebra Centre CEO Bob Hassel said.

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According to Hassel, the facility dogs play a vital role in providing support to children throughout the entire disclosure, judicial and healing process.

READ MORE: Dogs help child victims open up about their experiences

Formed in 1996, Dogs with Wings began providing guide dogs to Alberta’s sight impaired. The Zebra Centre’s VIP program was added to Dogs with Wings in 2003.

“Dogs with Wings is pleased to partner with Zebra Child Protection Centre, as we see the missions of our two organizations as closely aligned,” executive director John Wheelwright said.

In 2013, the Zebra Centre saw its first victim supported by a service dog through its autism program and three years later had six dogs placed across the province.

“For 20 years, Dogs with Wings has been providing highly-skilled assistance dogs to Albertans who rely on them to improve their quality of life,” Wheelwright said.

Dogs with Wings’ mission is to increase integration and independence for Albertans living with special needs.