Sturgeon Victim Services introduces facility dog

by Lucie Roy

Sturgeon Victim Services (SVS) Executive Director Kristine McDonnell and Program Manager Elyse Prince made a presentation on the Crisis and Court Support Program at the Morinville & District Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Wednesday.

SVS, a not for profit organization, provides 24/7 crisis response through the RCMP, court preparation and accompaniment and post-trauma support, after court and after trial.

They now have Hope, who was on her third day at work Wednesday. Hope is a 2-year-old Labrador Retriever, a Certified Service Dog trained through Dogs with Wings.

Hope has been trained to help ease the effects of trauma that victims of crime and tragedy experience.

In her presentation, McDonnell mentioned that in 2018 the Alberta Solicitor General published a Gaps Analysis Report that indicates the need for better support for victims of crime and trauma. The use of support dogs was identified in the report.

Hope can be present at the various stages of a critical situation providing emotional support. This can be at the scene of the initial crisis or tragic event, at client interaction when victims are being interviewed and at Criminal Court when victims have to testify.

Hope will live with McDonnell, her primary handler and be with her at the SVS office on a daily basis.

Hope will be at call outs, attend interviews and court with clients of all ages to provide comfort and support. Hope will go to the stand with them or just sit or stand in the room where they have direct eye contact with her.

As of this year SVS has received 526 referrals from the RCMP and going into 2019 they have 76 files where Hope will be there, devoted to helping support the victim.

You will see more of Hope in the coming days and months said McDonnell. It is all about awareness.

SVS wants to get the word out that Hope is in the community and if you see her come and say hi.

McDonnell said you can show your support by educating staff and employees by inviting Hope to your business.

If there is a critical incident in your workplace, a workplace death or domestic violence SVS and Hope are here to help you with stress debriefing.

McDonnell said they are to be in the schools, even on immunization days to support children and also working with the RCMP to promote the program.

Professional small sized cards featuring Hope are to be made and presented to the schools.
The length of service for Hope is on average eight years for a cost of Approx.$40,000 to maintain her in the program for that period of time. This is provided there are no additional medical expenses that has occurred besides the annual vet bill for check up and required immunization.

Donations are welcome, said McDonnell as the Alberta Solicitor General does not directly support court dogs.

You can follow Hope on the SVS Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to help get the word out.
SVS office is located at the RCMP detachment.

The organization serves Sturgeon County, Bon Accord, Legal, Alexander First Nation and Morinville.

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