Zebra Child Protection Centre officially welcomes third facility dog

Fletcher fetches positive outcomes of support for children and families

On Sunday, May 29, the Zebra Child Protection Centre’s third facility dog, Fletcher, officially graduated from the Dogs with Wings victim services program. As part of the Zebra Centre’s Very Important Paws (VIP) Program, Fletcher will join existing canine employees Wren and Fossey to lend support to children within the Centre, during their forensic interviews and to help them navigate the judicial process at the Edmonton Law Courts.

“The prospect of sharing their stories at our Centre and testifying in court can be overwhelming for a child,” said Bob Hassel, CEO, Zebra Child Protection Centre. “Having the silent and non-judgmental comfort of a dog can give a child the confidence and security to disclose their experiences of abuse,” said Hassel. “Fletcher along with the other facility dogs at the Zebra Centre play a vital role in providing support to children throughout the entire disclosure, judicial and healing process.”

Following two years of victim services training facilitated though the Edmonton-based Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society, Fletcher, a Yellow Lab, arrived at the Zebra Child Protection Centre in November of 2015. In his role, Fletcher will primarily support children and their non-offending caregivers within the child-friendly waiting rooms at the Edmonton Law Courts and on the stand as they testify against the accused. In his first six months of employment at the Zebra Centre, Fletcher has assisted in 62 court preparations, accompanied 66 children to court and sat with 34 children on the stand in Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench.

“Dogs with Wings is pleased to partner with Zebra Child Protection Centre, as we see the missions of our two organizations as closely aligned,” said Dogs with Wings Executive Director, John Wheelwright. “For 20 years, Dogs with Wings has been providing highly-skilled assistance dogs to Albertans who rely on them to improve their quality of life,” said Wheelwright. “We know that Fletcher will assist countless children and families to overcome their challenges.”

Fletcher’s position and the Very Important Paws Program are funded in part by the Rotary Club of Edmonton Urban Spirits.

Did you know? Out of 16 Dogs with Wings Class of 2016 graduates, Fletcher is father to seven!

About Zebra Child Protection Centre’s Very Important Paws (VIP) Program
Since 2013, the VIP Program at the Zebra Child Protection Centre has utilized specially trained dogs to assist in alleviating the trauma of children who have experienced abuse. In spring of 2015, Zebra Centre’s Wren made history as the first facility dog allowed on the stand in an Edmonton courtroom to support a child giving testimony. Combined, Wren, Fossey and Fletcher have accompanied 44 children on the stand in Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench since March of 2015.

About Dogs with Wings
Formed in 1996, Dogs with Wings began providing guide dogs to Alberta’s sight impaired. Our service dog program was added in 2003 and shortly after, our autism program. 2013 saw our first victim service dog and three years later, we have six dogs placed across the province. Dogs with Wings’ mission is to increase integration and independence for Albertans living with special needs.