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Big smiles and waggy tails as dogs descend on library

PUBLISHED: 11:39 30 March 2015 | UPDATED: 11:39 30 March 2015

Summer Parker meets Pets as Therapy dog Delia at Norwich’s Millennium Library trial event.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Summer Parker meets Pets as Therapy dog Delia at Norwich’s Millennium Library trial event. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Archant Norfolk.

They are usually considered havens of peace and quiet where the slightest noise can be met with looks of disapproval.

But traditional library rules went out of the window when nine dogs descended on Norfolk's biggest centre over the weekend.

The animals were so-called “therapy dogs” - specially-trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, hospices and schools.

Their presence at Norwich’s Millennium Library was as part of a pilot scheme by Norfolk County Council ahead of a possible expansion in the use of such animals in the region.

The authority has been working with the charities RSPCA and Pets As Therapy to use the animals in a variety of scenarios. This was the first time the animals had been used in the library, but organisers said they might become a more familiar presence there.

At the event on Sunday, the animals met children who may have little or no interaction with dogs. The children were given the opportunity to stroke, cuddle and play with the dogs, to gain confidence around them and help foster a compassionate attitude towards them.

Jo and Chris Parker’s daughter Summer, four, enjoyed spending time with Labrador Delia.

“She’s always interested in dogs but it was nice for her to be in contact with larger dogs,” said Mr Parker.

“We always tell her to be careful of dogs and her she’s learnt how to approach them properly.”

Eleven-year-old Oscar Varney-Bowers had loved dogs before he was bitten three years ago.

But after interacting with Delia, Nooka and Shango, he said: “I feel a lot better and I now feel more confident around dogs.”

The RSPCA gave talks and handed out leaflets during the day about how to handle, approach and care for animals.

Charlene Brookes, a manager at the library, said they hoped to host more sessions there.

“It was phenomenally popular and the children have got a lot out of it,” she said. “We’re hoping to organise more sessions for vulnerable adults and children.

PAT - which puts dogs through an assessment before they can be used - also take the animals into schools to sit and listen to children read who may not be confident speaking out loud.

Clive Edwards, a volunteer at the charity, brought along his black Labrador 11-year-old Bailey and said the dogs enjoy meeting the children and they’re always “more gentle” with those who are nervous.

For more information about PAT or the RSPCA, visit http://www.petsastherapy.org/ and http://www.rspca.org.uk/home

Have you got an animal related story? Email rebecca.murphy@archant.co.uk

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