County Fire Department Welcomes First Emotional Support Canine

Firefighters Experience Depression and PTSD at Rates Five Times Higher Than the General Population

Rhonda is trained to help firefighters cope with stress and anxiety. | Credit: County Fire

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department recently welcomed its newest member, Rhonda, the agency’s first emotional support canine. Firefighters experience depression and PTSD at rates five times higher than the general population, and Rhonda is trained to recognize signs of agitation, anxiety, and stress. When she does, she nuzzles up to interrupt those troubling moments.


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Firefighter Sam Dudley has been assigned as Rhonda’s handler. She’ll live with Dudley and join him at work every day. She’ll be available 24/7 to all fire agencies in Santa Barbara County, and may even travel statewide. Pet House in Goleta has offered to donate all of Rhonda’s food and assist with grooming costs.


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