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New CYF worker: small, furry and here to stay

5 June 2009
For Immediate Use

New CYF worker: small, furry and here to stay

She is a four-year-old Border Collie cross dog, her name is Tess, and she is now a permanent part of the staff at Child, Youth and Family’s care and protection residence in Wellington.

Tess has moved in to the residence full-time to support therapeutic interventions with the young people who live in the residence. She is thought to be the first pet to live-in full time like this in New Zealand.

The initiative is a first for the Wellington SPCA who are monitoring the placement closely to ensure that Tess is settling in well. “We spent a long time talking with Child, Youth and Family before we placed Tess in the residence. We took the time to find the right dog with the right temperament, when we found Tess we knew she would fit in great” says Nick Taylor, Wellington SPCA Animal Operations Manager.

Having a pet live-in full time, also known as ‘pet therapy’, has a number of benefits for the young people including helping them to build empathy and learn nurturing skills. Pet therapy has been used in settings such as hospitals and prisons for many years where the pets will visit for short periods. Tess is thought to be the first pet to live full-time.

“We’ve had to make a few changes around the residence to give Tess the space she needs, including a private space for when she needs time out” says Ross Barber, Residence Manager for Child, Youth and Family.

The SPCA and Child, Youth and Family signed an Interagency Protocol between the two organisations in September 2008. The protocol sets down a formal working relationship in which the agencies will inform each other if they suspect animal or child abuse is occurring.

As a result of this closer working relationship, the SPCA has begun pet therapy programmes in both the Wellington and South Island Child, Youth and Family residences. The programmes bring animals into the residences to spend time with the children and young people and help them to develop pro-social interaction and to build nurturing skills. It then seemed a logical extension of the concept to include a pet becoming a full-time feature at the residence.

Notes for editors
• Ross Barber, Residence Manager (Child, Youth and Family) and Jennifer Rizzi, Education Officer (Wellington SPCA) are available for interview.
• Photos available on request.


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