Winnipeg

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Therapy Animals

A cool breeze carries the scents of straw and leather through West Wind Stables. Surprise chews nervously at the side of his stall. He watches Peyton McFee closely as she wanders away from him. She is holding a rainbow-coloured stuffed bird in her arms. She laughs and comes back to pet him.

“It’s fun!” she says. Surprise takes the bird’s beak in his velvet lips.

Peyton has autism and ADHD. She is a student in the Manitoba Riding for the Disabled Association. Her mom, Kristy McFee, says Peyton screamed the whole first lesson.

“I didn’t know a lot about horses, so I was terrified the first time,” says Kristy McFee.

Kristy says that over time, Peyton’s confidence and riding has improved, and she loves coming to the lessons now.
Tracy Garbutt pets his guide dog, Marion. Garbutt is visually impaired and needs Marion to help with everyday tasks. Garbutt says that distracting or denying people service because of their guide dogs is not only inconvenient but illegal. EVAN MIDFORD
Strangers always want to pet Tracy Garbutt’s two-year-old black Labrador dog, but he just can’t let them. Marion is a guide dog, and if she gets distracted, she puts her owner in danger.

Garbutt, 48, is blind, and says he wants people to understand the rules around guide dogs.

He says restaurants have kicked him out because of his service dog. Garbutt says that’s a violation of his human rights.

“It’s frustrating,” Garbutt says with Marion resting calmly at his feet. “It’s against the law.”

George Leonard is a master dog trainer at MSAR Service Dogs. He trains therapy and police dogs.

He exposes the dogs continuously to stimuli to desensitize them, so in the real world, when they see food or hear noises, the dogs focus on their handlers.

“You’d be surprised how many old ladies have treats in their pockets,” Leonard says with a chuckle. “A lot of them do.”

Garbutt wants legislation around service dogs to change. Currently, distracting a dog on the job can be a $5,000 offence, which can rise to $10,000 if it happens a second time.

Videos

An Uncommon Therapy
A story about how turkeys and horses from Manitoba provide therapy for children, seniors, and people with mental illnesses and disabilities.
Distracting service dogs is a fineable offence
People with service dogs have to deal with people distracting them all the time. It's inconvenient and illegal.