One in every five American families has a pet. Pets provide security, companionship, happiness, and love to the individuals and families they live with. The law enforcement and criminal justice arena are struggling to get the population on their side as a result of few but unfortunate and too publicized encounters. Franklin County decided to leverage puppy power to counter this, enhancing engagement and regaining their community’s trust through Therapy K9 dogs.
To talk about this initiative is Jason Ratcliff and Darrah Metz. Jason works in law enforcement where he’s been affiliated with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office for the last 20 years. He’s been assigned in different units and is currently a Sergeant in the Community Relations Unit. Darrah has been working in law enforcement since 2011. Also from Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, she’s with the Community Response Bureau working on the Therapy K9 Program and is a certified Master K9 Trainer.
In this course, Jason and Darrah unpack the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Therapy K9 Program. Some of the points they delved into include:
- The initiative’s early beginnings: The research, the proposal, and the implementation.
- The program’s mission to provide needed comfort and support for individuals who experienced exposure to crime and trauma, and those who are struggling with developmental and mental health disorders.
- The dogs and how they changed the lives of the agency staff, their handlers and the people and children they work with.
- How the program was built from scratch and its self-sustaining model.
- The different types of work the dog provides that allow them to:
- Immerse and engage with the community
- Provide encouragement for those feeling devastated and hopeless.
- Assist the wheels of justice by easing people and children to make crucial testimonies.
- How the program strengthened existing partnerships with other organizations.
- Researches that provide scientific support to the benefits of the presence of dogs in schools, crisis response, community relations, and investigations by fostering trust and providing social support.
- A look into the financial considerations to implement a similar program and tips on how to scale down the maintenance costs through careful planning and partnerships.
- Franklin County’s Therapy K9 School – the classes, curriculum, and requirements to join its free classes.
- Jason and Darrah provided clarifications to the audience’s questions related to:
- The process of choosing a dog to join the Therapy K9 School.
- The age range of dogs accepted in the Therapy K9 School.
- The cost of starting up the program and the funding sources.
- The training involved to become a Master K9 Trainer.
- Securing buy-in of agency leadership to the program.
- “Most valuable was: all the possibilities where you can utilize the K9, and how to convince your administration, as well as inspiring the community to donate service (grooming/Vet).” — Desiree
- “How well this program works with juveniles. Please do another webinar about therapy dogs.” — Greg
- “Stats on the effectiveness of having a dog in certain situations as opposed to not having one in the same situations.” — Sharon
- “Such a valuable webinar! Presenters were both interesting and very knowledgable. I would love to see more webinars on how to pick a therapy animal to train, as well as specifically on training them.” — Stacey
- “An innovative program incorporating Therapy K9’s into the community response – GREAT IDEA.” — Tim
- “The statistics. We are currently in the works to establish a Therapy Dog Program with our agency. We have been in contact with FCSO & their program. It was great to finally “see them” talk about the program.” — Wendy