Vernon (“Vern”) is a Canine-Assisted Intervention (CAI) dog with Kingston Police. His primary role is in the support of victims or witnesses of violent crime and/or trauma. You can ask the investigating officer if Vern can be present for interviews and court preparation.

How Vern can help you

Vern can provide support through:

  • acting as an effective icebreaker for difficult conversations;
  • acting as a tool for those who struggle to communicate, e.g., a child who will not leave mom or dad to provide a video statement;
  • providing a healthy and positive distraction to upsetting matters;
  • providing the physical comfort of a cathartic touch that a victim may need;
  • reduce the blood pressure of victims and witnesses;
  • provide an overall calming influence to those who may be highly agitated or highly emotional;
  • help to normalize traumatic situations; or
  • act as a goodwill ambassador to the agency they serve.

 Situations where Vern may be helpful:

  • child interviews for sexual or physical abuse;
  • assisting child witnesses to traumatic events;
  • domestic violence victim interviews;
  • assisting victims of elder abuse;
  • assisting victims encountered by the Vulnerable Sector Unit;
  • assisting witnesses to traumatic events, including in homicide and sudden death investigations;
  • death notifications;
  • support for court testimony by victims under the age of 18;
  • support for victims during court preparation, e.g., reviewing statements;
  • traumatic incident debriefings for large groups, including businesses, elementary schools, secondary schools, Queen’s University, and St. Lawrence College; or
  • internal incidents affecting sworn and civilian members of the Kingston Police.

About Vern

Vern the service dog

Vern is the first accredited CAI dog to be used by a police service in Ontario. Vern is a yellow lab/golden retriever mix and has been generously donated by National Service Dogs (NSD), located out of Cambridge, Ontario. NSD is accredited through Assistance Dogs International, which adheres to the highest calibre of training standards available. NSD bred and trained Vern to specifically be a Canine-Assisted Intervention dog.

Within the Kingston Police organization Vern will fall under what is called the Canine-Assisted Response for Emotional Support (CARES) Program. Vern began his official training at seven to eight weeks of age and was placed with a puppy raiser for the first 18 months of his life. He then returned to NSD for advanced training with professional trainers. He was chosen to be part of the CAI Program and was specifically selected for the Kingston Police due to his tranquil demeanour and ability to remain calm.

There are currently nine other CAI dogs being used in Canada, predominantly found within Alberta and British Columbia. Caber from the Delta Police Victim Services was the pioneer in Canada and then Hawk from the Calgary Police Service was the first CAI dog to be allowed in court to assist a child sexual abuse victim testify on the stand. This authority comes under the “support person” provision found within the Criminal Code of Canada. Kingston Police hopes to do the same within the Frontenac County court system in the near future.

Vern has already been used in numerous interviews and court preparation sessions. The benefit to victims and witnesses has been overwhelmingly positive.