Champ is a six year old yellow Labrador retriever working full time as an engagement dog within the Australian police.
It's an office-based role, five days a week for Champ, who supports the police officers' wellbeing within the Victorian Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (JACET), which falls under the aegis of the Victoria police, but which also works collaboratively with other agencies in child protection within the state and nationally.
Like emotional support or well being dog programmes elsewhere, Champ’s job wasn’t necessarily part of a strategy at the start, but grew organically and, as the interview makes clear, was made possible thanks to the generosity of Tessa Stowe of K9Support.com.au.
What is notable here is how Champ’s role has been surveyed, monitored and embraced by the organisation as a whole. His welfare is as much part of the approach as that of the officers he supports, and it makes the model look sustainable over time.
Champ’s role is not just a job - it’s a prototype for how police and other emergency services could look at harnessing the emotional welfare benefits of canine company in the workplaces, in Australia and elsewhere.
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© & ℗ Kate Fairweather, 2023