KINGSTON POLICE FIRST IN ONTARIO TO USE CANINE-ASSISTED INTERVENTION DOG
In October 2015 the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit added it's first and only canine addition to the team. Vernon (or Vern for short) is the first official Canine-Assisted Intervention (CAI) dog to be used by a police service in Ontario. Vern is a three-year-old yellow lab / golden retriever mix and was generously donated to the Kingston Police by Ontario National Service Dogs (NSD).
NSD bred and trained Vern to specifically be a Canine-Assisted Intervention dog to enhance the quality of support for witnesses and victims. He 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 graduated from the CAI Program and was specifically selected for the Kingston Police due to his tranquil demeanour and ability to remain calm in various situations.
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 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; and
• 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 has already been used in approximately 250+ interviews and court preparation sessions since being placed with the Kingston Police.
Vern’s primary handler is Sgt. Melanie Jefferies who brings Vern to work with her everyday as Vern resides in her family home. While at work Vern can normally be found on his dog bed within the sexual assault/child abuse unit or comforting a victim in an interview.
Vern has been an incredable addition to the unit's team and the response has been extraordinary from victims, our justice partners and the community. Vern's success stories continue to grow as he continues his mission at the Kingston Police.