Cole, Honey and Sasha – 3 service dogs for children with autism

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Cole, Honey and Sasha are three Labradors which have arrived at their final training stage before they will be used to assist individuals with autism.

Inclusion Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli paid a visit to a training session held in Ta’ Qali on Wednesday ahead of the International Day of Disabled Persons 2020 which falls on 3 December. The day is designated by the United Nations and is aimed at promoting the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and development, and to increase awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

The three dogs which will be assigned to families with members who are on the autism spectrum, are being trained by Robert Spiteri from the Service Dogs Malta Foundation.

Service dogs for children with autism act as constant companions to children with autism to help them improve social interactions and relationships, expand verbal and nonverbal communication, teach life skills, increase interest in activities and decrease stress within the family.

Minister Farrugia Portelli praised the foundation for its work and underlined that more awareness is needed on service dogs. She explained that one should not pet a service dog and remarked that children should be taught on the role of service dogs in our society.

Currently seven dogs are receiving training to become autism service dogs. Two other dogs are being trained to assist people who have diabetes.

One they qualify as a service dog, they are assigned to a family for life. Service dogs can accompany their handler anywhere as per law including in supermarkets, restaurants, workplace and on public transport.

To date, eight dogs have qualified as service dogs from the foundation.

The Operations Manager of the foundation Joseph Stafrace and Joanne Cremona were both present on Wednesday during the visit.