Sudbury letter: Facility dog an unneeded distraction

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It is an oxymoron to have emergency services called a community safety department when they have allowed, and in some cases driven, the number of volunteers to a level where the city is now short by 100 volunteers, equivalent to five volunteer stations, and our fire stations are allowed to continually deteriorate from lack of maintenance. That does not indicate community safety as any part of the mandate implied by the name.

This at the same time as they want to acquire a facility dog to help deal with the traumatic incidents firefighters encounter. Where is the department’s concern about the traumatic impact on victims of fires because we are short 100 responders, not to mention the increasing costs of providing that dramatic reduction in service?

Is that why they removed service from the name of the department? Who is driving this service level elimination? Who is approving this?

The trauma this dog can address is literally nothing in comparison to citizens who have watched as the department has allowed the service that most taxpayers built with their own funding and volunteerism to dwindle and disappear.

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Back to the dog. Watching and listening to the meeting, the proponents couldn’t even answer who the handler would be and even suggested at one point there could be multiple handlers. If the handler is on the 24-hour shift system, then a minimum of four handlers would be necessary. This flies in the face of service dog studies where even a second handler is known to cause stress-related behaviours and lack of performance effectiveness in the dogs. More than two handlers is animal cruelty and should not be on the agenda of any department, let alone a community safety department.

Will the next step be to acquire a therapy dog to deal with the facility dog’s emotional stress?

These dogs are trained to function with one handler who is trained in the psychology of these situations. Are we now going to train firefighters as psychologists and therapists, and who will be paying that bill if this requires returning to university for that training?

Why would the need for this service not be addressed by health care experts who are already trained and available?

We expect our experts within the city to demonstrate a far greater ability to deal with problems within their departments than is being demonstrated here. Or is this simply a cute distraction from the major issue of declining service?

Fire service requires far more attention than a facility dog and it is a traumatic experience to watch the department devote so much effort to this instead of where they should be directing their skills and efforts. Leave the health issues to the health care experts.

Thomas Price

Whitefish

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