Atlanta Science Festival showcases man’s cute, furry best friend with a purpose

A fluffy Labrador Retriever and Poodle mix puppy sits in a colorful garden. (Photo Credit: JLSnader)

Atlanta has been hosting a two-week long celebration of all things science at The Atlanta Science Festival, which started on March 9, offering more than 100 events focused on STEAM categories (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) throughout the city. The touted event culminates with the Exploration Expo, taking place this Saturday, March 24 between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET at Piedmont Park.

One must-see event during the Exploration Expo is How the Canine Mind Helps People with Severe Diseases, sponsored by Atlanta based biopharma company UCB, Inc. and hosted in collaboration with local nonprofit organization, Canine Assistants.

Our community is not immune to the effect of epilepsy on family members with health issues like diabetes and members of the hip-hop community, including Lil Wayne, who has had a public battle with seizures.

“As a leader in epilepsy care, we are committed to delivering value to people living with severe diseases. That’s why since 2003, we have been proud to support Canine Assistants, matching nearly 400 seizure response dogs to people living with epilepsy, helping patients live at their ideal, says Allyson Funk, head of U.S. communications and public relations at UCB.

More than just furry friends, the Canine Assistants service dogs help their owners in everyday life, from retrieving a phone prior to a seizure, summoning help in a controlled environment and staying with their person during a seizure. Via its sponsorship, UCB, which develops life-changing treatments for people living with severe diseases like epilepsy, supports Canine Assistants with resources so each dog gets the extensive training it needs to benefit more people within the epilepsy community.

We spoke with folks at Canine Assistants and here’s what they shared.

What types of dogs are trained?
Canine Assistants primarily works with Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, along with a few others such as Poodle mixes.

How are they selected? Does size and breed matter?
Most of the service dogs come from the Canine Assistants breeding program, although Canine Assistants also uses dogs adopted from shelters and rescue programs. As mentioned above, Canine Assistants primarily works with Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, along with a few others such as Poodle mixes. Puppies begin their education at two days of age.

How are they matched with patients?
Each applicant is evaluated based on how much a dog could do to help physically, emotionally and socially. While there are no age restrictions, each applicant is evaluated on the appropriateness to benefit from one of the dogs. Each situation is considered on an individual basis. All dogs are also placed free of charge.

What types of illnesses are they trained to help with?
Canine Assistants primarily provide assistance dogs for people who have mobility difficulties, seizure response dogs for those who have epilepsy and diabetic alert dogs.


Yvette Caslin
Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.

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