School policy prohibits puppies in training


By Becky GINOS bginos@davisclipper.com

FARMINGTON—Dogs can be a source of comfort in a chaotic world, especially for someone who is visually impaired. That’s why Traci Holmes and her family are raising their 28th puppy for Guide Dogs for the Blind. “I’ve been raising since 2001 and a leader since 2004,” said Holmes, puppy-raising leader for Guide Dogs for the Blind in Weber/Davis County. “I always wanted to raise but my mother wouldn’t let me. Then when my daughter was 12 she wanted to do it and we’ve been doing it ever since.” Holmes said it’s an awesome family service project. “It’s been wonderful to do while they’ve been growing up,” she said. “We teach the puppies good manners and basic obedience and house behaviors. We get them out of the puppyhood stage.” She’s seen plenty of benefits from puppy raising. “My kids know what it’s like to raise children because dogs are like that,” she said. “They are responsible and respectful because they’ve glimpsed parenthood. I think every newlywed couple should raise a puppy before they have children. It’s easier to work out with a puppy they have for a year rather than a child they have for the rest of their life.” Raisers are volunteers and they get a puppy at eight weeks and usually have them until they are 15 to 19 months old. “We work with labs and golden retrievers,” she said. “Potential raisers attend club meetings weekly or biweekly to be trained. They have to puppy sit first to make sure that’s what they want to do. Every once and a while we lose people when they decide they don’t want the attention they get when they go out with the dog.” Taking the puppies out to socialize is part of the process, but the Davis School District recently put a policy in place that prohibits raisers from bringing the dogs to class. “They said it is a risk management issue,” said Holmes. “But we would never allow a dog with aggression or instability to go in to a school. It’s created a hindrance to both teachers and raisers. The puppies are learning how to be out in public, relieve themselves outside on command and lay by a desk. They are puppies in training versus a service dog.” Holmes said raisers are not blind or impaired. “They are doing it just as somebody else gets a scholarship or because they want a career with animals in some way,” she said. “By taking the dogs to school they can get social stimulus so they can grow up to be guide dogs. Dogs need to be able to jump into social settings.” But the district said it is following state risk management policy. “Nothing’s happened in the past but what if a dog bites, etc.?” said Director of Communication & Operations for Davis School District Chris Williams. “They won’t cover us if something occurs. We take liability on our own. To what degree do we want to take that chance? People may say, ‘it’s just a simple dog bite,’ but we don’t know what will happen.” The district policy allows service dogs if students have the proper documentation showing it has been individually trained to perform or do tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. “It isn’t a matter of the district not liking the dogs or seeing the need,” he said. “Someone who is visually impaired with a service dog is a different situation. These dogs are not helping a student with a task.” Still, Holmes and other raisers would like to see the policy change. “There was a teacher in a special needs class who would allow a dog to lay by a student’s desk or while they were reading,” she said. “The kids weren’t really interacting with the dog but they loved it and the parents loved it. Students would fight to go to school and walk in happy. They wanted to pet the dog when they were stressed. You just get something from petting a dog.”

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