At their regular meeting May 12, District of Port Hardy council approved a request from Valerie McPherson for a letter supporting her family’s bid to get a service dog.
McPherson explained in a letter to council, that her two-year-old son Ben was diagnosed with Autism a few months ago and the family is applying to receive a dog through National Service Dogs (NSD) based in Cambridge, Ontario.
Since 1996, NSD has been training Labrador and Golden Retrievers to assist children and families living with Autism and is the first school in the world to provide this service.
Over the last 18 years, NSD has placed almost 300 dogs across Canada, and helped various training schools around the world develop their own Autism programs.
The dogs are valued at $30,000 over their eight to 10-year working life; however, each dog is provided free of charge to approved clients.
NSD receives no government funding and relies entirely on donations from the general public, corporate sponsors, fund-raising events, and community supporters.
The direct cost to the family is an application fee of $50, an equipment fee of $250, and the cost of travel, accommodations and food for a week of training in Cambridge. After they receive a dog, all food and veterinary costs are borne by the family.
“These specially-bred and trained dogs are matched with each Autistic child to aid them with their individual special needs, like keeping them safe from traffic, water and other dangerous situations,” McPherson wrote.
“They can offer comfort and ease when simple noises and rapid action can be overwhelming for the child, and so much more. For Ben to have one of these dogs would benefit him and our family immensely.”
One of the things required in the application process are reference letters and McPherson felt a letter from council would have a significant impact on the weight of their application and that the dog would be welcomed and a happy and positive member of the community.
“It’s actually quite challenging to get one (a dog),” said Councillor Jessie Hemphill.
The request was unanimously approved.