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Canine Assisted Crisis & Grief Support Team


CACGS teams* are extensively trained and certified to provide canine-assisted emotional support when partnering with mental health, emergency response agencies, and counselors that provide emotional rescue, recovery and on-going support to individuals who have been affected by crisis, loss of a loved one, and/or disaster.


As highly trained crisis/disaster volunteers, members of Canine Crisis Support Team may respond locally, regionally and nationally.


We seek to:  Respond as needed in crisis,grief or disaster situations, particularly through the use of our Certified Canine Crisis Support Dogs;  and encourage and support all aspects of disaster,grief and crisis-related volunteerism in the community.

Our volunteers are trained to serve in a variety of roles.

When working with their Canine Crisis & Grief Support Dogs, they will offer individual client care, emotional support, comfort, and compassionate listening to those affected, as well as to responding workers and volunteers.


 Less than 10% of certified therapy dogs have the unique temperament necessary to be successful as a Certified Canine Crisis & Grief Support Dog. This elite group of therapy dogs must demonstrate advanced therapy dog skills including the ability to remain extraordinarily calm in the midst of crowds, noise, anxiety and situations filled with strong emotions. 



What is a canine Crisis & Grief Support Team?


It is a trained certified dog/handler team specifically educated on both ends of the leash to assist mental health workers to provide support and necessary intervention to individuals in need on sites of crisis, trauma and disaster.


When tragedy strikes a community, individual, or family, and people are working through their grief, the simple act of petting a dog can give comfort that no words can offer.

The value of specially trained therapy dogs during times of crisis has been demonstrated time and again.  They offer more than just a warm furry body; many dogs instinctually understand when someone needs comfort and offer it unconditionally, without judgment or obligation.


What is the benefit of Canine Crisis & Grief Support Teams at a crisis?


It is not appropriate to have a Canine Crisis Support Team at every crisis. Canine Crisis Response Teams are a unique treatment tool that has the potential to enable mental health professionals and/or emergency responders to work with hard-to-reach individuals.


General observations indicate the presence of a dog may make crisis client sessions more pleasurable and productive and improve therapeutic outcomes. Crisis clients of all ages experience calming effects, brightening of mood and increased motivation when a dog is present during treatment.


Canine Crisis Support Teams can also help the responders. Canine teams are usually there for the crisis clients, these visits tend to provide stress relief, lift the spirits of emergency workers and at least temporarily take their focus off of the emotionally difficult parts of their work. The same positive physiological and psychological effects experienced by crisis clients also impact the emergency workers.


Canine Crisis & Grief Support Team Training pre-requisites for Qualification:

  •  Demonstrated experience and skills handling a therapy dog in challenging situations.
  • Level of trainings completed.
  • Demonstrated ability to work respectfully with people of all backgrounds and life experiences.
  • Have functioned together as a certified therapy dog team for at least 1 (one) year.

  • Have current canine medical records on file           

Dogs' Must :

  • Demonstrate the ability to remain extraordinarily calm in new and stressful situations, with no vocalization or signs of anxiety or distress.
  • Demonstrate the ability to work with other dogs and people in close quarters over long periods of time.
  • Demonstrate ability to work effectively under a variety of simulated/actual disaster or crisis situations.


The Canine Assisted Crisis Support Team responds by invitation of Municipal Agencies, School Boards, Disaster Stress Relief agencies ,Or other agencies in need of our service.

We are supported by the Red Cross.*

What it takes to be a Certified Member with canine partner:

J       Your dog must be at least one year of age.

J       You and your dog must have a minimum of 12 verifiable AAA/T visits within the last year.

J       You and your dog must successfully complete a CCRT Screening Evaluation.

J       You and your dog must successfully complete a Certification Training Workshop.


Screening Evaluation:

Screening evaluations help to determine who is qualified to participate in certification workshop training.  A screening consists of an in-depth interview, interactions with CACST evaluators, and a series of exercises for the handler and canine partner.



Certification Training Workshop:


The certification training workshop consists of comprehensive training for essential skills needed for animal-assisted crisis response.  Some of the topics taught included:


J       History of animal-assisted crisis response.

J       Explore the nature and spectrum of disasters; roles in responding.

J       Learn how to communicate effectively in crisis situations for the purpose of providing emotional comfort.

J       Learn who Emergency Responders are; types of responses; how and when we work with responders.

J       Field training in emergency response environments, personnel, & equipment.

J       Experience and learn about travel as a Team.

J       Learn about the effects of stress on people and what to do.

J       Learn how dogs learn, and how they can be effective partners.

J       Learn about canine stress, and what to do when stress happens.

J       Learn and practice canine desensitizing and counter-conditioning.

J       Participate through role playing in simulated crises.


Continuing Education:


J       Reinforce and practice CCRT skills to remain response ready.

J       Build cohesive response groups.

J       Augment skills with relevant conferences, workshops, and courses.

J       Practice canine desensitizing through participation in events, drills, and training.  


Only advanced teams may qualify for participation in the LWLMWM’s Canine Crisis & Grief Support Team which provides highly trained therapy dog teams to provide emotional support and comfort in disaster, emergency, loss and crisis situations.  Dogs must be certified to apply.


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*A Canine Care Assistance Program. LWL's All Rights Reserved. 2006. All material, photo's,artwork, articles, and content of this web site, and it's pages, and organizational links, are copyrighted to CCWDA and/or LWL's.Permission MUST be granted to use all or any part of.

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