The Alberta government says five new organizations will now be able to train, test and provide service dogs to people across the province who may need them.
“Qualified service dogs are dedicated to helping people navigate daily life and, in some cases, even save their lives,” Irfan Sabir, minister of Community and Social Services, said in a statement on Tuesday. “I am proud to improve access to service dogs for persons with disabilities and, for the first time, those affected by PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
“I look forward to seeing more service dogs in our communities.”
Alberta’s Service Dogs Qualifications Regulation took effect in the spring, setting out provincial standards and letting more schools train qualified service dogs. The rules also allow for people who trained their own service dogs to have them assessed to become qualified.
LISTEN: Danielle Smith speaks with George Leonard, the founder of MSAR and the Courageous Companions Program
The new organizations on the qualified service dog provider list are the Hope Heels Service Dog Team Building Institute, which operates in Edmonton, Calgary and Grande Prairie, the Canadian Canine Training Corporation, which operates in the Edmonton area, Very Special Paws/Camrose and District Victim Services Society, which operate in Camrose as well as the Edmonton and Calgary area, Red Dog Training Solution, which operates in the Edmonton and Red Deer area, and Courageous Companions Incorporated, which operates throughout Alberta.
“Having more qualified schools is great news for Alberta,” said John Dugas, the owner of Courageous Companions. “This will help meet the demand and empower more people with independence, freedom and access to their communities.”
Previously, the list only included the Edmonton area’s Dogs With Wings organization and Calgary’s Pacific Assistance Dogs Society.
View below: Photos from Tuesday’s news conference about the new Alberta organizations on the qualified service dog provider list.
“I’ve waited a long time to have a qualified service dog,” said Adrienne Webb, who uses a PTSD service dog. “Having more service dog schools and more opportunities to obtain a service dog will change many people’s lives for the better.”
LISTEN: Danielle Smith speaks with Les Landry, president of Respect the Service Dog
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.)
According to the government, qualified service dogs can usually be spotted by a harness and equipment “that are unique to each service dog organization.”
In Alberta, people who use service dogs have a right to access any public place and denying them access is a criminal offence.
For more information about service dogs in Alberta, click here.