Benton House Senior Living and Canine Assistants are partnering to place COVID-19 detecting dogs at assisted living communities. Five communities in the Atlanta, Georgia area have been identified to receive partner dogs, with the hopes of expanding the program in the coming year. This includes both adding additional locations in Georgia and other states, as well as expanding the dogs’ scent recognition capacity to include other common health concerns.
The idea to partner came after Mike Allard, the CEO of the Benton House communities, read a news article about COVID-detecting dogs being utilized at international airports.
Says Allard, “I was impressed with how quickly the dogs learned to detect the virus, some in just a few days, and how the accuracy rivaled current nasal pharyngeal testing percentages.”
Having previously donated to the nonprofit Canine Assistants, he called founder Jennifer Arnold to see if she would be interested in developing a program in the United States. He was pleasantly surprised to learn she shared similar thoughts and had begun some initial trials.
Dogs identify the virus via sterile swabs used to collect sweat samples from test subjects. Trials are expected to take place over the next several weeks with the hopes of placing dogs in their new homes after the first of the year.
Says Allard, “We think our communities are perfect for this type of program. The testing the dogs do will be in addition to, not in place of, our other testing protocols. The extra layer of protection is just one more way we can serve our residents and team. Best of all, the dogs will live at the communities and just be part of the family. So, we not only get the benefit of additional testing, but we also get a unique new community resident”.
Jennifer Arnold, founder of Canine Assistants adds, “We’re excited to be a part of this initiative. For years we have seen the benefit of dogs’ uncanny ability to alert their people to pending seizures or changes in blood sugar. We’re excited to expand the detection protocol to include the SARS-COV-2 virus and, hopefully, other infectious agents that may pose health risks such as influenza and MERSA. It takes a forward-thinking organization like Benton House to make this possible and we’re proud to have them as a partner.”
Allard concurs, “Our experience with Canine Assistants has been fantastic and my family is honored to provide the initial funding for this pilot program. I hope this work expands beyond our Benton House communities and am excited about learning other ways our furry friends might help in the future. If you have a passion for seniors and service call Benton House. If you have a passion for dogs please support Canine Assistants. True progress is never made alone!”