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'Comfort Dogs' Employed at City Schools to Provide Emotional Support

By Amy Zimmer | September 26, 2017 1:08pm
 Bruno, the comfort dog at Lower Manhattan Community Middle School.
Bruno, the comfort dog at Lower Manhattan Community Middle School.
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Department of Education

MANHATTAN — This new breed of school counselor does not need a master's degree in education or social work.

The Department of Education is bringing "comfort dogs" to dozens of city schools to bolster social-emotional learning and alternative approaches to improve school culture, the agency said. Opting for more positive approaches to discipline than punitive ones, administrators will use the four-legged friends to help kids calm down during heated outbursts and help kids feel emotionally supported in times of need.

The agency's Comfort Dog Program, piloted in seven schools last year, will now be in 40 schools citywide, School Chancellor Carmen Fariña said during a visit to Lower Manhattan Community Middle School, where she met the school’s new dog, Bruno.

“The Comfort Dog program brings a smile to students and staff on a challenging day, helps to de-escalate issues and can even provide bereavement support,” Fariña said in a statement.

Schools can adopt a rescue animal that has been evaluated by the North Shore Animal League America before getting trained in the “Mutt-i-Gree” curriculum, which includes lesson plans and strategies to engage students and incorporate pooches into the school’s social-emotional supports. A staff member at each school is responsible for caring for the pet.

Bruno quickly ascended the ladder of popularity at Lower Manhattan Community.

“Whether he is greeting students in the morning or working on speech therapy, Bruno is a relationship builder, an effective part of our counseling services, and an adorable addition to our school,” principal Kelly McGuire said in a statement.

Jaye Murray, executive director of the DOE's Office of Counseling Support Programs, explained that the dogs are key aides to guidance counselors and others.

“They possess the two most important qualities of an effective social worker or counselor —unconditional acceptance and warmth,” Murray said.

Last year's schools with comfort dogs included South Slope's M.S. 88, the Upper West Side's P.S. 75 and Baychester's P.S. 176. They are joined this year by many more, including the East Village Community School, Coney Island's Lincoln High School, the elite Staten Island Tech and Little Neck's P.S. 224, which serves students with special needs.

Here is a complete list of schools with comfort dogs:

J.H.S. 14 Shell Bank Junior High School (22K014)
M.S. 88 Peter Rouget (15K088)
P.S. 200 Benson School (20K200)
M.S. 266 Park Place Community Middle School (13K266)
P.S. 75 Emily Dickinson (03M075)
P.S. 209 Clearview Gardens (25Q209)
P.S. 176 (11X176)
P.S. 628 Brooklyn Brownstone School (16K628)
P.S. 90 Edna Cohen School (21K090)
P.S. 231 (20K231)
P.S. 532 New Bridges Elementary (17K532)
H.S. 410 Abraham Lincoln High School (21K410)
P.S. 185 Walter Kassenbrock (20K185)
P.S. 506 The School of Journalism & Technology (20K506)
P.S. 373 Brooklyn Transition Center (14K373)
H.S. 139 Stephen T. Mather Building Arts Craftsmanship High School (02M139)
P.S. 145 The Bloomingdale School (03M145)
M.S. 896 Lower Manhattan Community Middle School (02M896)
P.S. 315 The East Village Community School (01M315)
P.S. 267 East Side Elementary School (02M267)
P.S. 178 Professor Juan Bosch Public School (06M178)
P.S. 076 William Hallet (30Q076)
P.S. 120 Queens (25Q120)
P.S. 277 The Riverview School (30Q277)
P.S. 224 (26Q224)
P.S. 75 Robert E. Peary School (24Q075)
I.S. 204 Oliver W. Holmes (30Q204)
P.S. 22 Graniteville (31R022)
H.S. 605 Staten Island Technical High School (31R605)
P.S. 861 Staten Island School of Civic Leadership (31R861)
P.S. 80 The Michael J. Petrides School (31R080)
I.S. 007 Elias Bernstein (31R007)
P.S. 001 Tottenville (31R001)
P.S. 204 Morris Heights (09X204)
P.S./M.S. 004 Crotona Park West (09X004)
M.S. 343 Academy of Applied Mathematics and Technology (07X343)
P.S. 12 Lewis and Clark School (11X012)