Monday, 17 December 2018
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Marshall County Board of Education considers therapy dogs

MOUNDSVILLE — Moundsville Middle School educators shared their experiences with certified therapy dogs to the Marshall County Board of Education during its Tuesday meeting.

Principal Michael Lewis gave a presentation advocating Therapy Dog International, an organization that certifies dogs to serve in therapeutic capacity. To demonstrate, Princess and Angela, two pet dogs which had been certified through TDI, were suited up and brought to show the board.

“We did a whole year of training — my daughter and I went to training one night a week — and we passed Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog International,” said Suzanne Muncy, the dogs’ handler and owner. “I could take them on an airplane. … The tests we took was a three-hour certification test. It was intense. They’re a reputable organization.”

The benefits of the dog, Lewis said in his presentation, include physical health, such as reduced blood pressure through interaction with the dogs; stimulation of senses; and companionship. They have been shown to improve memory, problem-solving skills and social well-being. The dogs, wearing purple, MMS-branded collars, are already kept at Moundsville Middle School for the students’ use.

Muncy said in the worst-case event of a disaster at school, therapy dogs would be available to help ease students’ nerves.

Board member Lori Kestner said it is no secret that she isn’t a huge fan of dogs, and she expressed concern for students who might share her fear. She also expressed concern about the liability involved with potential dog bites.

But the therapy dogs through TDI are covered through its liability insurance, and Princess and Angela are also covered under Muncy’s personal homeowner’s insurance and the school district’s liability insurance. The students also are taught proper etiquette for interacting with the dogs.

To help reduce allergies, the dogs are required to be bathed every other week and are kept to strict cleanliness and grooming requirements, and only are introduced to students on a voluntary basis.

“I want to encourage you to think of our dogs as what it is — a wonderful pilot program,” Lewis said.

The board had previously discussed the possibility of bringing in Liberty, the Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office therapy dog. Prosecutor Rhonda Wade had offered to bring her anywhere in the county upon request. Kestner had previously voiced concerns that the dog might be unavailable at a moment’s notice because it would be tied up with court matters.

Liberty and a representative from the prosecutor’s office are scheduled to come to the Nov. 13 board meeting. As such, the board did not take any action Tuesday regarding therapy dogs.

Costs associated with such a program were not discussed.


The Bark Box

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