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Alberta to launch pilot project for training service dogs on April 1

Premier Rachel Notley meets a service dog at an announcement in Edmonton for more provincial funding for service dog training on March 31, 2017. Global News

Beginning Saturday, a new pilot project will get underway which the Alberta government says will “allow more schools to train qualified service dogs, giving more Albertans opportunities to find a job, attend school and participate in their communities.”

The pilot will see a number of service dog-training organizations be given money to train canines based on new standards that meet international standards. Once the pilot wraps up in August, the province plans to create a list of qualified service dog training and testing organizations.

The pilot will also see the organizations that receive funding certify dogs that have already been trained.

“Service dogs previously trained at schools or by their owners can take a test administrated by a school on the qualified list to become a qualified service dog in Alberta,” the government said in a statement.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to contribute to their community and build better lives for themselves and the people they love,” Premier Rachel Notley said in a statement on Friday. “We are working to make life better for Albertans with disabilities by ensuring they have access to service dogs so they can live safe, inclusive lives in their communities.”

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The government is distributing $250,000 to Hope Heels, Service Dog Team Building Institute, Alpha K9 Canada, St. John Ambulance, Pacific Assistance Dogs Society, Omega Service Dog Testing & Consulting and Dogs with Wings Society Assistance Dog Society.

The investment includes funding for training and mentoring services from National Service Dogs, a school specializing in service dogs meant to help people with post-traumatic stress disorder.

View the photo gallery from Friday’s service dog announcement below:

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Beginning April 1, 2017, a new pilot project will get underway which the Alberta government says will "allow more schools to train qualified service dogs, giving more Albertans opportunities to find a job, attend school and participate in their communities." (March 31, 2017). Global News
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Beginning April 1, 2017, a new pilot project will get underway which the Alberta government says will "allow more schools to train qualified service dogs, giving more Albertans opportunities to find a job, attend school and participate in their communities." (March 31, 2017). Global News
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Premier Rachel Notley and Minister of Community and Social Services Irfan Sabir meet a service dog at an announcement in Edmonton for more provincial funding for service dog training on March 31, 2017. Global News
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Premier Rachel Notley meets a service dog at an announcement in Edmonton for more provincial funding for service dog training on March 31, 2017. Global News
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Premier Rachel Notley meets a service dog at an announcement in Edmonton for more provincial funding for service dog training on March 31, 2017. Global News

“I’ve heard from many Albertans with disabilities that qualified service dogs make a real difference in their day-to-day lives, and contribute to emotional and psychological well-being of those who rely on them,” Irfan Sabir, minister of Community and Social Services, said in a statement. “The new Service Dogs Qualifications Regulation will increase access to service dogs so that more Albertans will have the support of these life-changing companions.”

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“With having approved schools, we’re going to be able to have more access to service dogs which is really going to be a huge improvement,” Samantha Hjalmarson, who uses a service dog to help her with her PTSD, said on Friday.

READ MORE: Meet Zakk: Alberta service dog graduates program to help first responders with PTSD

Watch below: Meet Zakk. He’s the first service dog to graduate from Hope Heels with a unique mission – to assist a first responder who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. (Video is from Oct. 11, 2016.)

Click to play video: 'Edmonton service dog to assist first responder with PTSD' Edmonton service dog to assist first responder with PTSD
Edmonton service dog to assist first responder with PTSD – Oct 11, 2016

Currently, a service dog must meet one of the following qualifications under the Service Dogs Act:

  • The dog must have graduated from a program accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI)
  • Completed a program delivered by an organization identified on the government’s qualified list
  • Passed a test administered by an organization identified on the government’s qualified list

READ MORE: Soldier’s service dog banned from Edmonton Garrison facilities

The government recommends anyone looking to get a service dog trained for them verify their ADI accreditation or qualified list status first.

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On Friday, the government said the qualified list that emerges in August “will be an evolving document.”

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