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Canine Assisted Interventions for Ottawa Firefighters

The Ottawa Professional Firefighters Association (OPFFA) the Ottawa Fire Services (OFS) and the Ottawa Humane Society (OHS) have agreed to continue their existing partnership in the development of a canine-assisted intervention program for firefighters in Ottawa. In the Canine Assisted Intervention (CAI) program, temperament-tested dogs (owned by volunteers or staff) would engage directly with firefighters who could benefit from a positive human-canine interaction. These interactions could occur:

  1. At a predetermined location and time (e.g. regular visits to a firehouse)

  2. At the request of Ottawa Fire Services (OFS) personnel (e.g. due to a perceived need for additional wellness services, at a community event etc.) and/or

  3. At a prolonged “large scale event” (a fire or emergency events at which firefighters are working for an extended period of time)

The goal of the program is to provide opportunities for firefighters to experience psychosocial and physiological benefits associated with animal-assisted interventions, especially for those who may be reluctant to seek mental health intervention due to existing or perceived stigma. The human benefits of interacting with dogs (even for a short period of time) include:

  • Reduction of stress hormones (cortisol)

  • Increase in “happiness” hormones (oxytocin)

  • Lowering of blood pressure

  • Reduction of subjectively experienced stress and anxiety following a stressful incident

All dogs and handlers would be provided by the OHS specifically for the Program. These dogs would be temperament-tested in the same manner as all OHS Program Dogs. CAI program dog handlers (volunteers) would be hand-picked by OHS staff from the existing pool of OHS program dog handler volunteers or would be recruited externally. When screening and recruiting CAI volunteers, emphasis would be placed on cultural competency, (i.e. volunteers who have worked as first responders, former or current members of the Armed Forces, family members of first responders etc.)

We are looking to identify any ROFFA Members, currently with a canine or without, who may be interested in volunteering in this type of program. To bring your name forward, or for any questions, please contact Andrew Ellis at:



Andrew M. Ellis

Captain, Ottawa Fire Services

Station 23, D Platoon

Chair, Wellness Fitness Initiative Committee


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