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City Views presents commentary from staff on the latest projects, initiatives, and successes.

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Sep 23

Therapy Dogs Help Police Department Staff

Posted on September 23, 2015 at 4:17 PM by OCOM Specialist

Therapy DogsThe City of Falls Church Police Department has added three Therapy Dogs to its Wellness Program to help first responders and investigators.

The National Institute of Justice finds that officers who endure stress for a long period of time can lead to anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therapy Dogs International says studies have proven that through petting, touching and talking to animals, people's blood pressure is lowered, stress is relieved and depression eased. This includes "police officers ... who suffer their own emotional pain when dealing with the devastating pain of others."

Master Police Officer Jennifer "Missy" Elliott researched and found that therapy dogs would be a good addition for the City's Wellness Program. Therapy Dogs were successful in the emotional aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

“After Sandy Hook I contacted Manassas Therapy Dogs and started an introductory program,” said Elliott. “These visits not only allow our Police Department staff to get to know the dogs and handlers but also provides some welcome stress relief.”

chloeBy early Spring 2015, the Therapy Dog Program officially became a monthly service for the City of Falls Church Police Department. 

Izak, a 12-year-old Labrador Retriever, is one of three dogs used in the program. Izak is owned by Linda Nicholson

“Staff really gravitate to the dogs," said Elliott. "After an intense meeting, the dogs visited and you could see officers smiling and the stress fade away."

Two other service dogs are also being used as part of the program. Chloe is an 8-pound Shih Tzu owned by Janet Beese. John Casper is the owner of Daphne, a West Virginia purebred.