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Therapy dog starts pilot program at Foxboro elementary

March 31, 2020

Therapy dogs are expected to become a more common sight in local schools, with a pilot program involving one such dog starting in February in Igo Elementary School.

Planning for the visits, school officials have drafted a policy for assistance animals that was reviewed for the first time at this week’s school board meeting.

“Many schools have therapy dogs,” Superintendent Amy Berdos said. “It’s something that has proven a wonderful resource for students and staff.”

While town schools have been visited by such dogs, it hasn’t been on a regular basis. One visited the high school on a day exams were being held.

However, a certified therapy dog will be visiting Igo School under a pilot program, Principal Michael Stanton said.

Starting in February, Matty, a black lab that was trained by inmates at one of the Norfolk prisons and has been adopted by a host family, will visit classrooms to support efforts to build students’ self-esteem and social skills.

Studies have shown animal-assisted therapy can be beneficial for individuals with social, emotional, behavioral, and/or learning needs.

“We see the benefits of it,” Stanton said. “We’re excited to have that opportunity in all our schools.”

“I think it has proven successful,” school board member Beverley Lord said.

The police department and the school resource officer are interested in the program, Berdos noted.

School committee Chairwoman Tina Belanger mentioned Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey’s office recently providing area police departments with community resource dogs, including one for Wrentham.

The dogs are being paired with school resource officers.

Mansfield police last year purchased a service dog, Bentley, and he is very popular in the town’s schools.

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