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BU Hosts Animal-Assisted Crisis Training Workshop

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Studies show that interactions with therapy animals can decrease stress in humans, making them very helpful during times of crisis. 

HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response (AACR) team provides comfort and encouragement to individuals affected by crises or disasters. Its comfort dog teams assist in helping individuals recover, assist mental health professionals on location, and are prepared for unpredictable situations. 

The organization is holding a national certification training workshop this weekend at the Binghamton University Downtown Center. 

Teams consist of a dog and handler, trained to respond to intense emotional and environmental situations. 

The training provides handlers, who have specially trained therapy dogs, the opportunity to determine if they have what it takes to work during times of crisis and disaster. 

“They just give love, they give unconditional love. They give non telling anyone else listening ears. One of the favorite things that i’ve seen children do that’s been done is whisper into a dog’s ear. Who knows what they said, but the dog knew, and so the child was comforted,” said Joan Heverly, Eastern United States Director Of HOPE AACR.

During the three-day workshop, both owners and dogs go through intense training, including exposure to various emergency situations. The teams received off-site training at the Greater Binghamton Airport and the Binghamton Fire Department, as well as increased exposure to various environments and situations.

 “This is the next step up for dogs who have been assisting people in crisis, so we have been to the fire hall, where they have learned about the smells, and the sounds, and the excitement of a fire hall. From the smell of the boots of the firemen to the sounds of fire trucks and the lights and everything,” said Heverly.

Teams from all over the North East attended this workshop. 

"Most of the people actually drove four, five, six, and seven hours to here to have this regional workshop,” said Heverly. 

HOPE AACR has seven regions in the United States. The Eastern region consists of teams from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Maine.  

Once the candidates have completed the weekend workshop, trainers will assess if the dogs are capable of crisis and disaster work. If so, the dogs and owners will receive their HOPE AACR certification and will join the ranks of about 250 certified teams nationwide.