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St. John Ambulance Abbotsford Therapy Dog Program Working to Improve Wellness at Local Federal Correctional Facilities

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Abbotsford – Through their PAWS INSIDE Program, the St. John Ambulance (SJA) Abbotsford therapy dog team has recently delivered comfort services to federal correctional facilities across the Fraser Valley.

The program began at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women, a provincial facility, providing services to inmates approximately five years ago. A year ago, the Abbotsford therapy dog team coordinator was approached by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) in the Pacific Region about providing support to staff, which instantly felt like a perfect fit to the Abbotsford therapy dog team. 


These visits were paused due to COVID-19, but the need for support for CSC staff became even more apparent during the pandemic, when they were required to quickly adapt to entirely new challenges. On the other side, SJA therapy dog teams were also unable to conduct their regular visits to care homes, schools, and libraries, which were suspended as a safety measure. Concerns over the possibility of unintentionally spreading the virus prevented the therapy dog teams from attending their regular visits with the staff and both sides of the partnership missed the visits greatly.

During these visits, masks were worn by both the SJA therapy dog handlers and all correctional staff. Measures were taken to ensure physical distancing such as the use of six-foot long leashes.

Both the CSC and the Abbotsford SJA therapy dog team are looking forward to future visits to further support staff well-being. Learn more and support the St. John Ambulance therapy dog program at supportsja.ca/therapydogs, and request their services by emailing bcy.volunteer@sja.ca.

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