A sharp increase in child abuse cases over the pandemic has left the Central Alberta Advocacy Child Centre needing a second therapy dog.
Shelter staffer Becca Glackin said more predators have had opportunity to use social media and the internet to lure children. “Unfortunately, it’s an easy way to start communicating with kids,” she added — contributing to a recent 40 per cent rise in the centre’s caseload.
From April 2021 to March 2022, the centre has helped 1,048 child victims and families. Since January, centre staff have seen an influx of two to three children a day.
Quinn, a Labrador/golden retriever cross was purchased in 2019 to help de-stress anxious children while they recount their abuse to police or the courts. But there’s so much demand for his services, the dog is getting “very booked up” and over-committed, said Glackin, his handler.
A big part of Quinn’s job is going to court with the kids — Glackin said some abused children refuse to go before a judge to testify without him. A growing court caseload means there’s often no therapy dog available at the centre to help incoming children who are being questioned about their abuse by social workers and police.
Glackin is, therefore, thrilled the centre was recently able to order a second dedicated therapy dog, through the fundraising efforts of Red Deer’s Royal LePage Network Realty Group.
When this additional dog, trained by the Dogs With Wings Assistance Dog Society in B.C., arrives in Red Deer, Glackin hopes he will permanently work at the centre, allowing Quinn to continue helping kids who testifying in court.
Emotional therapy dogs are trained to sense when anxieties or fears are running high in children, and to provide them with comfort and support.
“Quinn is often the only thing that gets the kids through the door, whether he just cuddles with them on the couch,” or sidles up to them, sensing their anxiety, she added.
In 2019, the Royal LePage Network Realty Corp. chose the child advocacy centre as a charity of choice for its annual golf tournament. The Red Deer realty group came through with $70,000
In June, the realty company held a Storage Wars-type fundraising auction of donated goods and experiences that yielded a total of $63,000.
Of this amount, $50,000 will go to purchase a trained therapy dog for the child advocacy centre, and $13,000 will be given to the Central Alberta Womens’ Emergency Shelter.
In 2019, the Royal LePage Network Realty Corp. helped the centre purchase Quinn and provided two years of maintenance funds from a charitable golf tournament.
Due to COVID uncertainty, the golf event had to be cancelled in 2o20, 2021 and 2022 as it takes many months to organize — but the realty company still wanted to help local non-profits. Realtor Tammy Jensen conceived of auctioning goods out of storage locker — and it proved to be wildly successful.
Thanks to the hard work of many people and the generosity of Realtors and business sponsors, it was a “fabulous day” that helped two very worthwhile causes, said Jensen.