Hasbro partners with Cranston Police to launch therapy dog program

November 19, 2018

Photo of therapy dog
Christine Barron, M.D., CALI the therapy dog, and Cranston Police Detective Michael Iacone

The Cranston Police Department and the Lawrence A. Aubin, Sr. Child Protection Center at Hasbro Children’s Hospital are pleased to announce a collaboration to initiate Rhode Island’s first Canine Comfort Therapy Program believed to be the first of its kind in the country.  While both agencies have worked closely in the past to investigate incidents involving the victimization of children, this ground breaking initiative will feature the first comfort therapy dog to serve as a member of a Rhode Island police department, as well as the first resident canine in a local hospital.  

The comfort therapy dog, an Australian labradoodle puppy named CALI (Cranston Police Department, Aubin Center, Leadership in Innovation), will be jointly handled by a Cranston Police Detective and a physician from Hasbro’s Children’s Aubin Center to help foster an open and trusting dialogue with children suspected of being victims of maltreatment including sexual and physical abuse with investigators and treating physicians.

“Children often struggle emotionally after a traumatic life experience and dogs are incredibly therapeutic, providing an amazing sense of comfort to children and their families during these critical times of crisis. Research has shown that dogs provide a comforting presence that positively affects children and their families by lowering stress levels, while increasing calmness and unparalleled support. “
As part of the program, child victims will be paired with the dog from the time of his or her initial contact with law enforcement and throughout the entire investigatory and judicial process, including medical examinations and preparation for court room testimony.

“When you see the difficulties families and children go through following a very traumatic experience, having a dog present provides great comfort. It’s truly a resource to help with the stress and anxiety our families and patients experience as a result of very traumatic incidents,” said Christine Barron, M.D., director of The Aubin Center.
After undergoing extensive training with Courteous Canine LLC, including basic puppy obedience classes, Cali will receive a Canine Good Citizen and Pet Partners evaluation and certification.  She has already begun to be socialized with children and the public while in the care of her two handlers, Det. Michael Iacone of the Cranston Police Department’s Special Victims Unit and Dr. Barron.

The Cranston Police Department and the Aubin Center wish to thank Chief Robert H. Haigh, Jr, Lieutenant William Gordon and Officer Laura Gordon of the Greenfield, Massachusetts Police Department for their guidance and support in establishing our therapy dog program. Lieutenant Gordon and Officer Gordon are the founders of what is believed to be the first police therapy dog program in the country and are handlers of two Saint Bernard therapy dogs named Donut and Clarence who have traveled the nation to offer comfort after horrific events including the Newtown school shooting and most recently the Las Vegas mass shooting. Their invaluable assistance in the institution of this innovative and exciting program intended to assist victims of child maltreatment is greatly appreciated, as well as Gary Cournoyer LICSW a certified pet assisted therapy provider..  We would also like to extend a sincere thank you to Lawrence A. Aubin Sr. and Tracey Wallace, vice president, pediatric services at Hasbro Children’s, for their support which was instrumental in making this program possible, along with philanthropy of others.

Colonel Michael J. Winquist, Chief of the Cranston Police Department, stated, “This unique program is a prime example of the benefits of police and private entities working in partnership in the interest of public safety and community service. The concept for the initiative came directly from Detective Iacone and Doctor Barron who deserve all of the credit. They are both well respected in their fields and should be commended for their creativity, ingenuity, leadership and commitment to helping children which led to the creation of this program.  I want to also thank the entire administrative staff of Hasbro Children’s Hospital Center for their support of law enforcement and the great work they do day in and day out. In just a few weeks, Cali has already met with several child victims resulting in the highest praise from prosecutors, parents and children.”

Mayor Fung stated, “I commend the Cranston Police Department and Hasbro Children’s Hospital for this new, pioneering community policing partnership that will provide comfort and support for children who have been abused or experienced a crisis. In Cranston, our police department is continuously innovating and building new partnerships and programs to better serve the community, especially our most vulnerable. This program is the perfect example of how law enforcement and the staff at Hasbro can collaborate to improve outcomes and better serve the community and I welcome Cali as a member of our police department on behalf of the entire Cranston community.”

Elena Falcone-Relvas

Bradley Hospital & Hasbro Children's Hospital