Bring Phantom and the Therapy Dog Program Back

 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022, 7:30 pm. That’s the day and time of the next Bensalem School Board meeting. It’s the day many parents say they are planning to ask school leaders to reconsider their decision of getting rid of the therapy dog program after almost two years of service. It must also be said, service without incident.

That decision was announced on August 31st, without notice to the parents of Belmont Hills Elementary School who had to explain to their children why their beloved Phantom, a trained and certified personal therapy dog, that had been welcome at Belmont Hills Elementary School since 2021, wouldn’t be seen at school anymore.

A decision that not only affects Belmont but every school in the district. No more full-time therapy dogs in Bensalem Schools. Phantom was at Belmont on a part-time basis, it should be noted.

The concerned Belmont parents set up a change.org petition, currently at 1,345 signatures with the hope of changing the minds of those in charge of the dubious decision.

They also shared their story with CBS Philidelphia which we encourage you to read and watch to get a better understanding of what Phantom means to the 500-plus kids at Belmont. But keep in mind, there were therapy dogs in many of the schools.

A spokesperson for the Bensalem School District says having full-time dogs in the classroom

“presents a myriad of concerns including allergies of some students, possible animal aggression, sanitation, or adverse physical and or emotional reaction by either students or adults.”

As per the statement on the change.org petition,

“Children were able to stop near Phantom’s gated area to say hello or pet her, sometimes read to her, and were even offered reward incentives to spend time with their beloved furry friend, always with handler supervision.”

It needs to be re-stated, this program had been running since 2021. Yet only now, the powers that be are concerned about liability issues. It could be said that someone dropped the ball starting this program in 2021 or someone dropped the ball ending the program in 2022.

Maybe it’s time for the district to seek a new liability insurance company, one that’s worked with countless hospitals, nursing homes, hospice care facilities, and school districts around the country that have had not only therapy dogs but a wide range of therapy animals.

I encourage you to not only visit the change.org page to sign the petition and help bring Phantom and the Therapy Dog Program back but take a few minutes to read the collection of articles extolling the benefits of therapy dogs.

Including one, I’ll include the link for here from of all places, an insurance company titled Therapy Dogs in Schools. Explaining risk mitigation strategies for school districts.

Something doesn’t feel right about this decision, so we’ll be doing some sniffing around and see what we can dig up. Stay tuned.

 

 

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