Forget the Pre-K for All initiative. Now the city is launching a Pre-Canine for All training program that helps new comfort dogs prepare to join school communities.
Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza yesterday announced the new initiative as part of the Comfort Dog third anniversary celebration, which will see an expansion of the program, now in 45 schools citywide, to about 60 by the end of the school year.
“Whether it’s a reading buddy or a warm welcome on a hard day, comfort dogs have an impact on school communities, contributing to students’ academic and social-emotional well-being,” said Carranza. “This is an exciting and innovative program, and I’m thrilled that we’re expanding it.”
Comfort dogs enhance school culture and climate, working both in classroom and counseling settings to support students who have both mandated and at-risk counseling needs. Schools may also integrate the dogs into their crisis intervention and de-escalation practices.
All comfort dogs are rescued and identified for inclusion in the program by North Shore Animal League America. A staff member at each school adopts the dog and participates in mandatory Pre-Canine for All training led by an animal behavioral specialist. Through this training, school staff learn body language cues, safe dog handling techniques, and how to help their dog participate in social-emotional support and academic intervention games. Schools also receive ongoing support from the behavioral specialist.
Eight new dogs are participating in Pre-Canine for All this fall, and approximately 15 more dogs will join the program and participate in the training later this school year.
“Comfort dogs enhance confidence, motivation, communication and so much more in our students,” said Kirsten Kinsella, Comfort Dog Behaviorist. “When I work with students, staff, and their school’s dog, I see firsthand the difference this program is making, and I look forward to working with more schools throughout the year.”
The program also got a paws up from several Queens elected officials.
“PS 81 is a marvelous school that will love their comfort dog,” said Assembly Member Catherine Nolan (D-Sunnyside, Ridgewood, Astoria, Woodside, Long Island City, Maspeth, Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Dutch Kills and Blissville), Chair of the Assembly Education Committee. “In Ridgewood many people cannot have a dog in a small apartment; this will give children an opportunity to experience a great relationship.”
“The Comfort Dog Program helps students build their emotional intelligence and overall provides an innovative way to engage them throughout the school year with a friendly companion,” said Assembly Member Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven, Ridgewood, Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and Glendale).“I’m happy to see this program being expanded into more schools and into my district.”
“Successful schools don’t stop by just providing a comprehensive academic education for each student, they also ensure that students are well prepared for life both mentally and emotionally by providing programs that help enhance student’s well-being,” said Assembly Member David I. Weprin (D-Richmond Hill, Fresh Meadows). “It’s great to see that Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza is continuing and expanding this wonderful program for our students.”
“I am pleased to see the expansion of the comfort dog and pre-canine for all training programs, which help to address the social and emotional health of students with specific counseling needs,” said City Council Member Barry S. Grodenchik (D-Bayside Hills, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Holliswood, Little Neck, New Hyde Park, Oakland Gardens, Queens Village). “Students at PS 224Q, located within the district that I represent, will soon benefit from these valuable programs.”
The names and schools of the three new dogs in Queens are Cypress in PS 81, Lady in PS 22 and Delight in PS 224
Year 2 and Year 3 Comfort Dog Schools in Queens are PS 75, Corona Arts and Sciences Academy, PS 120, P.S. 209, PS 76, The Riverview School and IS 204.