The Taipei City Government and an animal welfare group yesterday launched a program aimed at training dogs at animal shelters to assist people who need rehabilitation while boosting animal adoption rates.
The Taipei Animal Protection Office launched the Stray Animal Star Program to find homes for the animals at the Taipei Animal Shelter, selecting select 20 to 30 dogs that are friendly and can be trained as “dog doctors.”
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and a dog demonstrated how medical service dogs can help rehabilitation patients as Ko raised his leg and the dog jumped over it, and Ko tried to put a ring on the dog as it stepped back; some of the ways patients could exercise different muscle groups while having fun.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
“Dogs can perform services that human doctors cannot. An aging population is a serious problem facing Taiwan. Some senior citizens have no one to talk to. Pets can provide comfort in addition to medical assistance,” said Ko, a former physician at the National Taiwan University Hospital.
“The association has been training and certifying dogs for therapy, and matching dogs to owners and institutions for the past 15 years,” Formosa Animal-Assisted Activity and Therapy Association chairman Collier Chang (張泮崇) said. “We have trained more than 300 dog doctors from different species, of which one-third were rescued dogs, and all the dog doctors you see here today were adopted.”
Dog doctors can help improve a patient’s strength, minute motor control, and social and cognitive functions, Chang said.
It takes 18 months to train a dog doctor, from selecting trainable candidates, matching, training and certification, while the association needs to raise NT$3.6 million (US$111,152) on top of government funding to carry out the star program, Chang said, calling on the public to join the cause.
Adopted animals are often returned because of behavior problems stemming from their inability to adapt to new environments, so the program follows adoption procedures used in other nations by carefully matching dogs with owners while assigning experienced trainers to the adoptive family to help dogs adapt to the new environment, and instruct owners to train dogs in a loving and nonviolent way, the office said.
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