Disabled Canadians struggle to be paired with service animals amid pandemic

Disabled Canadians struggle to be paired with service animals amid pandemic

Disabled Canadians struggle to be paired with service animals amid pandemic

If the past three months without a service dog have been a challenge for Ann Moxley, the next year seems poised to be a struggle.

The Victoria resident, who lives with physical disabilities, used to rely on her faithful companion Gretzky for a variety of household tasks. She fondly recalls times when Gretzky would pick up a wallet that slipped from her pocket or retrieve a toque and mittens blown into the road by a gust of wind.

But Moxley has been without his support since his death from a rare liver condition in April. And since the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Canada’s service dog training schools to halt or suspend their programs, she isn’t scheduled to meet his successor until at least July 2021.

“It’s hard, it’s all I can do to exist,” Moxley said in an interview. “It’s incredibly lonely.”

Moxley plans to get her new companion from Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, a school based in Oakville, Ont., that trains service animals to support people with a range of physical and sensory disabilities.

Chief Executive Officer Beverly Crandell said COVID-19 has forced the school to cancel in-person training classes, adding more names to an already-lengthy waiting list of people eager for service dog support.

She said while dogs have been successfully placed in foster homes while classes are on-hold, addressing the needs of their future human partners has proven much more complex.

“Clients are a different story,” Crandell said. “… They have been put on hold.”

Figures provided by the school estimate approximately 80 disabled Canadians have had their training deferred due to the pandemic. Officials said the school is offering virtual support to its existing clients and looks forward to the day when it can “create more life-changing matches for people with disabilities.”

Pandemic-related setbacks also abound at Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, an Ottawa-area training facility that cancelled all in-person classes at the end of March when public health-related lockdowns took effect across the country.

Manager of Development Alex Ivic said the school has had to explore alternatives to replace the residential model at the heart of its usual training program. Local clients, for instance, began receiving home-based training in May.

Ivic said the campus reopened to students last month, though only one person at a time is allowed to occupy the residence.

“The pandemic gave us new challenges,” Ivic said. “We had to push everything back and the wait times for those waiting for a dog are variable.”

Moxley anticipates additional struggles when she’s finally cleared to train with a new dog, saying COVID-19-related restrictions make the prospect of travelling from Victoria to Oakville daunting and possibly risky.

Canada’s service animal training schools don’t generally receive government support, relying instead on charitable donations to stay afloat. Both the Lions school and Canadian Guide Dogs for the blind said the financial squeeze caused by the pandemic adds another dimension to their struggles to keep going during a time of upheaval.

But Ivic, for one, remains optimistic, saying schools are committed to matching successful service dog teams while preserving the health of all concerned.

“I hope things will go back to normal one day to train multiple clients at once,” he said. ”I know there will be changes in our protocols to keep people safe,” Ivic said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2020.

Osobe Waberi, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Black Press File Photo
Maskwacis RCMP lay charges for attempted murder, kidnapping, and flight from police

Female victim remains in hospital in serious condition.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

File photo
Leduc RCMP lay charges in theft of catalytic converters

Two males arresed and charged with theft of several catalytic converters.

Black Press file photo
UPDATE: Leduc RCMP on scene of serious collision at intersection of Highway 2A and Highway 616

Both drivers were transported to hospital in serious condition; all lanes of travel now open.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, updates media on the COVID-19 situation in Edmonton, Friday, March 20, 2020. Hinshaw says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
‘Gut punch’: Alberta Premier Jason Kenney blasts Biden on revoked Keystone XL permit

Kenney said he was upset the U.S. wouldn’t consult with Canada first before acting

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

(Photo submitted)
Community Futures brings back Social Media Challenge for 2021

This time the challenge is for non-profits and community groups

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Central Alberta teenager donates filled 20 backpacks to Red Deer Mustard Seed

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County says he ‘just wants to help people’

A conveyor belt transports coal at the Westmoreland Coal Co.’s Sheerness mine near Hanna, Alta., on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Coal mining impacts are already occurring in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains even as debate intensifies over the industry’s presence in one of the province’s most beloved landscapes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
As Alberta debates coal mining, industry already affecting once-protected Rockies

UCP revoked a policy that had protected eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mining since 1976

Most Read