TRURO - An award-winning program that provides therapy service dogs to disabled individuals is not being terminated, despite rumours to the contrary, an official says.
The program has not been cancelled," said Etienne Chiasson, a spokesperson with Correctional Services Canada, regarding the Pawsitive Directions Canine Program at Nova Institution for Women.
"That program has proven itself year after year since 1996 and it's our first objective to keep it going."
Over the past 14 years, the program has trained more than 50 dogs, which had been saved from canine shelters, to be service or therapy dogs for stroke victims, polio patients, autistic individuals and the like.
Program facilitator Heather Logan,
who also designed the initiative, recently retired, which resulted in the program being interrupted.
"It was chosen as the top correctional service program in the world in 2007," said Logan, who became concerned when she began hearing that it was being shut down.
Logan said she has been training a replacement for the past two years in preparation for a seamless takeover when she did retire.
"She is more than capable of doing the job and taking it over," she said of the assistant, who is also an inmate at the institution.
But Chiasson said such a transition is not that simple because the program is a federal contract position that must be handled through the normal tendering process.
"There is a process to be followed for contracting to outside companies," he said. "All I know right now is that the institution is going through a process and we're trying to make it so that the program can resume as soon as possible because it is a good program. It has proven its worth over the years and the contractor has done a wonderful job of making that happen."
In the meantime, he said, Logan's assistant is continuing to train one of the dogs in anticipation of a handover to a local young recipient in March and the other five dogs currently involved are still being cared for by their inmate keepers.
"There is no way, zero way that these dogs will be put down or put in shelters or anything," he said.
"Right now, our plans are to place these dogs with good families."