Changes are coming to open up the training of service dogs in Alberta.
Relaxed regulations will allow more organizations to do the training. The goal is to reduce wait lists that have grown substantially in the last few years.
“We are matching the standards that are used by ADI [Assistance Dogs International] schools,” Community and Social Services Minister Irfan Sabir said. “They are internationally recognized standards, basically industry standards for service dogs.”
Samantha Hjalmarson is seeing this from both sides. She has had Lance work with her for four years, to assist with the anxiousness she suffers from with her PTSD. The two began training through the Hope Heels agency until she, through a lack of funding, had to take over the training herself.
“It’s going to open up a lot of other schools, to be able to produce service dogs to begin with,” she said with Lance sitting patiently between her and reporters. “They can go to a school a say ‘hey look, I need to have a service dog, I can’t train one, can you do it for me?’ and it’ll qualify under the Service Dog Act.”
That test is the public access test that shows the dog can handle the stress of all the commotion in day to day life, and that the dog won’t be distracted away from the job it’s there to do.
The plus for Toby Ramsden, the president of Dogs with Wings, is Alberta is bringing in regulations to ensure standards.
“The reason I said it was a good initiative is down in the States they have no regulations,” he said. “So you have people showing up at an airport with a duck under their arm saying ‘I need this duck because of my anxiety’ or PTSD or whatever. And they have to allow them on the aircraft.”
Ramsden said the regulations will also help match people who need the service, and weed out those who think they do but don’t. It’ll also eliminate breeds of dogs that aren’t suited for the work, like pit bulls.
To help with the six month pilot project to expand training, $250,000 has been given to six organizations.