About The Program
The St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program builds on our proud tradition of community service by bringing the benefits of pet companionship to both children and adults that are hospitalized, adults residing in long term care facilities, children struggling with reading, adult and child victims of trauma and crime, students stressed from school challenges and individuals in homeless shelters.
St. John Ambulance Therapy Dogs are part of a team consisting of a volunteer handler and their pet companion dog. These teams have undergone screening for suitability that includes criminal record checks, references, dog evaluations and canine vaccinations. Our members are volunteers that dedicate their personal time to bring the companionship of a dog to those that would benefit from some comfort and touch from a canine.
Therapy Dogs can help meet the need for physical touch as stroking and touching a dog has been proven to lower blood pressure, calm people who are agitated and refresh the mind of those who are confused. Dogs are completely accepting of people: they do not make judgments about a person’s looks, nor are they offended by what people might say to them. They offer unconditional affection.
Our Therapy Dog Program has been providing joy and comfort to those in need of a friendly visit for years. The program originally began in June of 1992 in Peterborough, Ontario. Today, the program boasts nearly 3,000 Therapy Dog teams across British Columbia and Yukon.
The availability of the program varies across Canada based on both community need and volunteer availability. The program is continually expanding as communities recognize the special contributions the four-legged St. John Ambulance volunteers can bring to Canadians of all ages and varying circumstances.
The Benefits Of The Program
St. John Ambulance has set out to fulfill a single mission: improving the health, safety and quality of life of Canadians. Aiming to satisfy this mission, the Therapy Dog Program yields many benefits. Studies have shown that holding or petting an animal helps lower blood pressure, release strains and tension, as well as ease feelings of loneliness and depression. A dog can give comfort that sometimes no words can offer. They provide more than just a warm furry body; many dogs instinctively understand when some needs comfort and offer it unconditionally - without judgment and without obligation.
Whether improving children’s reading skills through the Paws 4 Stories program, helping anxious college students unwind during exams, or visiting patients in senior facilities, the Therapy Dog teams are on-hand to bring warmth and comfort where it is needed most.