Kelowna RCMP test pilot project using animals to reduce work stress
It’s a first-of-its-kind pilot project being tested out in Kelowna to determine whether therapy dogs can help reduce stress at the RCMP detachment.
“We’ve enthusiastically welcomed these trained therapy dogs into our very dynamic workplace, which is often prone to stressful situations, with employee health and wellness as our highest priority,” Kelowna RCMP Supt. Brent Mundle said. “Front line police work can be very stressful at times, in turn, those who support the front line of policing can, as a result, be faced with similar stressors.”
The therapy dogs are part of UBC-Okanagan’s Building Academic Retention through K9’s program or B.A.R.K.
The program normally brings together university students with trained therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers in an effort to reduce stress, combat homesickness, among other things.
“Innovative research happens when folks connect dots that haven’t been previously connected and respond creatively to needs in the community,” director of B.A.R.K., Dr. John-Tyler Binfet, said. “Bringing UBC B.A.R.K. dogs, who have proven successful in combating stress on campus, to the local RCMP station helps to support employee well-being, while strengthening our partnerships within our community.”
The trial phase at the Kelowna RCMP detachment involves four therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers visiting once a week for two-hour sessions.
“Having personally taken advantage of the opportunity to spend some personal time with these stress-reducing therapy dogs, I quickly realized the benefits of such an interaction,” RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey said. “It’s not every day that an officer can pet, get close to or even embrace a K9 inside a police detachment. Our police dogs are great partners but their training has taken them down a different career path than therapy dogs.”
There are two more weeks that remain in the trial phase at the RCMP detachment before the program’s effectiveness is assessed.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the other RCMP detachments, municipal police departments and emergency first responder agencies are watching us closely here in Kelowna,” Mundle said.
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