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Pet Therapy Response Team; From 9-1-1 Dispatch to FD "Stress Relief" Visits

Fire & EMS departments across USA should consider starting Pet Therapy “stress relief” visits. The model program in Southwestern Ohio / Northern Kentucky could easily be replicated. For example, on March 19, Fire Chief Kevin Hardwick, Glendale Fire Department kindly invited our new Pet Therapy Response Team to visit his station with three dogs, including my Labrador Retrievers, FRYE and SWEATPEA, and Golden Retriever SCARLETT, all are seven years old.

TV stations also request “stress relief” visits. On March 16, WLWT Channel 5 broadcast a visit with their staff, including two dogs and a very large rabbit named GEORGE.

Pet Partners of Greater Cincinnati has over 150 member and has been doing stress relief visits to high schools for years. Some of those visits are in response to tragedies. For example, on April 10, 2018, Kyle Plush tragically died in his high school parking lot, trapped by the third-row seat of Honda Odyssey. Pet Partners had dogs at the school the next morning, and we have been invited back every year since (including six dogs on March 16).

As an Ohio volunteer firefighter I/EMT-B, and longtime member of Southwestern Ohio CISM Team, for several years I have been bringing FRYE to critical incidents. When the Tri-State Peer Support Team was formed in 2019, there was a rapid increase in requests for pet therapy by emergency responders and 9-1-1 dispatchers.

We have formed a PET THERAPY RESPONSE TEAM which is dispatched by Hamilton County 9-1-1 for trauma events. So far this year, the team has responded to two structure fires where children have died. See the team members, posted on Hamilton County Fire Chiefs Associations site:

All members of the team conduct monthly “stress relief” visits to Hamilton County 9-1-1 or Cincinnati 9-1-1. Some visits can get pretty intense, including March 17, when two Pet Partners and their dogs were at Hamilton County 9-1-1 and calls came in for Active Shooter at a local Target store. Team members asked if they should leave and were told to stay. THEY WERE WE REALLY NEEDED.

The Team is now starting monthly stress relief visits to fire departments in five Ohio counties, and in Northern Kentucky.

FD STRESS RELIEF VISITS [Goal: three pets per visit; SPECIAL EVENT - six+ pets]

  • March 19 (10 AM) – Glendale Fire Department, Hamilton County
  • April 20 (10 AM) – Deer Park / Silverton, Hamilton County
  • May 18 (10 AM) – Reading Fire Department, Hamilton County
  • May 26 (12 PM) – First Responders Mental Health Symposium – CVG Marriott (six pets): ceas.uc.edu/academics/departments/aerospace-engineering-mechanics/fire-science/news.html
  • June 5 (7 PM) – Eastern Joint Fire & EMS District, Brown County
  • July 20 (10 AM) – Covington Fire Department, Northern Kentucky
  • Aug. 17 (10 AM) – West Chester Township Fire Department, Butler County
  • Sept. 21 (10 AM) – Miami Township Fire Department, Clermont County
  • Oct. 19 (10 AM) – Deerfield Township Fire Department, Warren County
  • Nov. 16 (10 AM) – Woodlawn Fire Department, Hamilton County
  • Dec. 21 (10 AM) – Delhi Township Fire Department, Hamilton County

If you want to start a similar Team, contact Pet Partners, Bellevue, Washington, to find pet therapy group in your area.

Lawrence T. Bennett, Esq.
Professor – Educator
Program Chair, Fire Science & Emergency Management
University of Cincinnati
Cell 513-470-2744
[Member – IAFC Terrorism & Homeland Security Committee.
Author of free monthly Fire & EMS Law newsletter:

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