Kingston Police Canine-Assisted Intervention Dog is First in Ontario

Published on: 2015/11/23 - in Featured Releases

Kingston Police is pleased to announce the newest member to its ranks. Vernon (“Vern”) is the first accredited Canine-Assisted Intervention (CAI) dog to be used by a police service in Ontario. He is a two-year-old yellow lab/golden retriever mix and has been generously donated by National Service Dogs (NSD), located out of Cambridge, Ontario.

NSD is accredited through Assistance Dogs International, which adheres to the highest calibre of training standards available. NSD bred and trained Vern to specifically be a Canine-Assisted Intervention dog.

Within the Kingston Police organization Vern will fall under what is called the Canine-Assisted Response for Emotional Support (CARES) Program. Vern began his official training at seven to eight weeks of age and was placed with a puppy raiser for the first 18 months of his life. He then returned to NSD for advanced training with professional trainers. He was chosen to be part of the CAI Program and was specifically selected for the Kingston Police due to his tranquil demeanour and ability to remain calm.

CAI dogs enhance the quality of support provided to those who have witnessed or been victimized by crime and/or trauma and can be used to:

* act as an effective icebreaker for difficult conversations;

* act as a tool for those who struggle to communicate, e.g., a child who will not leave mom or dad to provide a video statement;

* provide a healthy and positive distraction to upsetting matters;

* provide the physical comfort of a cathartic touch that a victim may need;

* reduce the blood pressure of victims and witnesses;

* provide an overall calming influence to those who may be highly agitated or highly emotional;

* help to normalize traumatic situations; or

* act as a goodwill ambassador to the agency they serve.

Following are some situations in which Vern can be used:

* child interviews for sexual or physical abuse;

* assisting child witnesses to traumatic events;

* domestic violence victim interviews;

* assisting victims of elder abuse;

* assisting victims encountered by the Vulnerable Sector Unit;

* assisting witnesses to traumatic events, including in homicide and sudden death investigations;

* death notifications;

* support for court testimony by victims under the age of 18;

* support for victims during court preparation, e.g., reviewing statements;

* traumatic incident debriefings for large groups, including businesses, elementary schools, secondary schools, Queen’s University, and St. Lawrence College; or

* internal incidents affecting sworn and civilian members of the Kingston Police.

Vern’s primary handler is Detective Constable Melanie Jefferies, who is currently assigned to the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit. A secondary handler, Nicole Daggitt, is a civilian employee and works within the Criminal Investigation Division. Vern can normally be found on his dog bed beside Det/Cst. Jefferies’ desk when the two of them aren’t involved in interviews and other roles, and accompanies her home when their shift is done for the day.

There are currently nine other CAI dogs being used in Canada, predominantly found within Alberta and British Columbia. Caber from the Delta Police Victim Services was the pioneer in Canada and then Hawk from the Calgary Police Service was the first CAI dog to be allowed in court to assist a child sexual abuse victim testify on the stand. This authority comes under the “support person” provision found within the Criminal Code of Canada. Kingston Police hopes to do the same within the Frontenac County court system in the near future.

Vern has already been used in approximately fifteen interviews and court preparation sessions within just the last two weeks. The benefit to victims and witnesses has been overwhelmingly positive. He and Det/Cst. Jefferies have also attended a number of school visits and will continue to do more as time allows.

Vern and Det/Cst. Jefferies will return to Cambridge this Thursday, November 25 to attend a formal graduation ceremony and reunite the dogs who were in the same class. This includes those who are used in other specialized fields such as providing support to those with autism and living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Please help us in welcoming Vern to the community. Kingston Police is proud to be on the forefront in the province for breaking down barriers between police, victims and witnesses. The CARES program and Vern’s contribution will be an invaluable contribution in attaining this goal.

Release and photos source: Kingston Police