Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department to add a furry member to the crew

By Julian Orlando Chaves, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Huntsville Forester   

Department News News fire department firefighters mental health Ontario

Mar. 15, 2024, Huntsville, Ont. – Huntsville and Lake of Bays firefighters are looking to add a furry crew member to help them cope with stress and anxiety.

In the last Lake of Bays council meeting on Tuesday (March 12), Huntsville/Lake of Bays fire Chief Gary Monahan brought forward a report asking council to improve first responders’ wellness by adding a new crew member.

“As we know, we’re responding to more tragic incidents, and many departments, victim services, and organizations are using dogs as another tool to assist first responders and staff in traumatic events,” said Monahan in the meeting.

While obedience and behavioural training costs could reach $4,000, local organizations Lucky Labs, Keans K9, and Citadel K9 Society are offering those services at no cost to the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department and will be donating the dog.


The report highlights that dogs offer unconditional love, companionship, and non-judgmental support, which can alleviate loneliness, depression and anxiety. They can also reduce stress and increase first responders’ morale, the report noted.

Although adding a dog to the crew is primarily intended to improve first responders’ mental health, the report mentions there are more benefits related to supporting dogs in the fire department.

“A certified trauma support dog would also benefit the fire prevention division when delivering fire safety messages/public education events and visits to schools, retirement homes, etc.,” the report reads. “Expanding support options for our firefighters and staff may assist with retention and may decrease possible claims to the town.”

Other emergency service organizations like the Mississauga Fire Department, Sudbury paramedics and fire services, and Victim Services of Nipissing are using trained dogs to assist first responders, according to the report.

According to Monahan, he and Nicole Challis, the fire department’s administrative coordinator, would be the dog’s main handlers.

“I would support this,” said Coun. Robert Lacroix. “I know they’re donating for free, but the township should generously look at the three organizations donating this dog and give a small donation to each one to say thank you.”

Council unanimously approved adding a trauma support dog to the fire department crew and agreed to give $200 to each organization contributing to the donation.

Maintenance and care expenses are estimated to be around $4,000 annually and will be split between the Township of Lake of Bays and the Town of Huntsville.

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