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IAFC releases report on best practices for fire service canine groups

The Amber Ribbon Report identifies and defines the roles and standards for service and support dogs


D.C. Fire and EMS Department

By Bill Carey

MCLEAN, Va. — The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has released a report on the roles and standards for the use of canines in fire and EMS organizations to support first responder mental health.

Amber Ribbon Report - Best Practices for Fire Service Canines” provides direction and best practices for fire departments creating their own Fire Service Canine Group.

Co-author Fire Chief Kevin Hardwick stated that the report comes from his intent to create a canine support unit in his fire department. Finding no common direction, standards, or guidelines, Harwick set about gathering information and success stories from across the country and Canada.

“Our compilation includes data from a wide range of people with varied interests in these animals,” Hardwick wrote. “Breeders and trainers bring their expertise. Fire departments that have programs offer their experience in how they accomplished what they did. We include veterinarians to provide what is the best practice for the dogs. Then we have input from peer support/mental health and what their work brings.”

The report addresses three questions:

  1. How are dogs used in fire and EMS organizations for mental health, and how are their roles defined?
  2. What standards are available for breeders, trainers, and handlers for dogs in fire and EMS organizations?
  3. What liabilities exist that must be addressed, and policies developed when contemplating the use of canines for mental health within fire and EMS organizations?

Definitions, training, insurance, plus canine needs and qualifications, are some of the many areas fire departments must review before creating a canine support unit.

The Amber Ribbon Report underscores that no matter how the dogs are used – companionship, service, therapy, arson, or search and rescue – best practices should be followed to protect responders, dogs and the public.