New York City

Comfort Dogs Soothe Students at New York City Schools Each Day

What to Know

  • Seven New York City schools are using comfort dogs to help soothe students
  • The dogs are adopted from the North Shore Animal League by volunteer teachers, who bring them home each day
  • Officials say they're already seeing reductions in behavioral infractions

It's not often you see a dog going for a walk in a New York City public school. But a certain beagle named Maisey waddles around P.S. 75 on the Upper West Side like she owns the place. 

Maisey is the school's comfort dog, and part of a new initiative in New York City schools: her mission is to help the students stay calm and emotionally ready to handle the school day. 

Maisey sticks her snout in to snuggle children with special needs, who have trouble focusing, who are on the autism spectrum, or who are simply having an off day. 

"It's been an incredible process to watch and see how effective it is," said kindergarten teacher Cody Rosen. 

Michael Battista, who works in the Department of Education's Office of Counseling, says schools with the comfort dogs are seeing a reduction in behavioral infractions, both from individual students and at a schoolwide level. 

Each dog is a rescue from the North Shore Animal League and gets adopted by a volunteer teacher who brings it home every day. The dogs are selected based on temperament, but aren't specially trained. Somehow the dogs, which have suffered themselves, know just what to do for a child in need.

"You don't have to bring the dog to that child," said Jayne Vitale of the North Shore Animal League. "The dog will recognize that child, go over to that child -- the child just starts to pet the dog and they come out of it." 

It's a simple solution that lets children and dogs rescue each other. 

Seven schools citywide have dogs similar to Maisey -- and the program has been so successful, the city is going to expand it next year and add an additional 30 schools.

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