Marie Barbee

Marie Barbee, representing Catoosa County’s Trans-Aid Department, speaks to the commissioners about bringing therapy dogs to the Senior Center.

Catoosa County officials have signed off on brining therapy service dogs to its senior center so residents can experience some interaction with man’s best friend.

During the Feb. 4 Board of Commissioner’s meeting, Marie Barbee, an employee of the Senior Center and the Trans-Aid Department, sought approval for the agreement between the county and a local therapy dog organization.

“I’m coming before you tonight to request approval of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Therapy Dogs International,” Barbee said. “Therapy Dogs International is a non-profit organization that provides visitations free of charge through its tested and registered handlers whenever a therapy dog is needed.”

Barbee says the biggest goal is offering animal interaction for the senior citizens.

“We request the BOC (Board of Commissioners) approve this MOU with Therapy Dogs International in order to allow the seniors visiting the senior center the opportunity to interact with these therapy dogs.”

Commissioners unanimously approved the MOU with a 5-0 vote.

Chairman Steven Henry says he thinks giving the seniors a chance to visit with pooches is a great idea.

“I want to thank you for doing this, I think it’s great,” Henry said.

From a liability standpoint, Barbee explained that Therapy Dogs International in insured and that the handlers of the dog are as well.

“They require that the handlers have to have insurance and they have to clean the dog really well before it comes in as well as when it leaves,” Barbee explained. “They’re responsible for everything; we just have to keep watch over them to make sure that they are going by the rules. They’re trained and they’ll have vests on so you’ll definitely know it’s a therapy dog.”

Barbee explained that a lot of senior citizens might be more enthusiastic about taking a trip to the center knowing the dogs are going to be there.

“Having therapy dogs would be great for them. This is a brand new program with the therapy dogs,” Barbee said. “We do have several (senior citizens) that will just come in because they don’t want to sit at home all the time, and I think this will be very beneficial for them.”

Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009.

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