A program that helped women in a Fraser Valley prison gain work experience with dogs has had to shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For several years, one of the educational and employment programs at the prison has revolved around working with animals, thanks to a partnership with the Langley Animal Protection Society (LAPS).
But with physical distancing a priority, and with prisons a prime potential site for COVID-19 outbreaks, the program has been closed for now.
“At this time we still don’t have any definitive dates for reopening the program within the Fraser Valley Institution,” Alicia Santella, the instructor who runs the program for LAPS said in a June 30 announcement.
“We really miss our cherished clients and all our furry friends,” Santella wrote. “We look forward to the day we can safely reopen the Doghouse doors.”
The program runs as a dog kennel, while teaching women in the FVI how to handle, train, and groom dogs. The inmates can obtain multiple certificates while awaiting their release.
It’s also a program that can help provide practice with compassion, discipline, and working with others, Santella told Black Press Media in a past interview.
The loss of the program won’t be felt just by those looking to board dogs, or by the inmates in the work program.
“The program closure does represent a substantial drop in revenue for us,” said Jayne Nelson, the executive director of LAPS. “We have relied on the program and Alicia’s expertise to provide training for some of our shelter dogs, as well.”
Nelson said she received an eight-page letter from one of the program participants at FVI about how much they missed the program, the dogs, and the clients.
“This woman and one other are doing their best to advance their canine learning theory and behaviour modification knowledge through reading books and watching DVDs (recommended by Alicia) while they wait for the program to re-open,” said Nelson.
Although this program has been closed down by the pandemic, other outreach efforts have ramped up.
The shelter has been delivering pet food, cat litter, and other pet necessities to groups that work with the poor and homeless, including Kimz Angels, the Vineyard Church, and the John Howard Society. A significant number of homeless people and those living in poverty in Langley have pets.
A $10,000 grant for LAPS’s Major’s Legacy Fund will also help provide veterinary care and other pet necessities for those who can’t afford them.
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