Meet the Team: Laura Loftus (Applications Assessor)

Posted 7 years ago in the Meet the team category

Get to know Applications Assessor Laura as she answers questions about her role within the Applications team.

Laura Loftus Applications Assessor for Canine Partners

Last year, over 100 people joined our waiting list for a Canine Partner, and as of January 18th this year we had 142 people on the list waiting for a dog. In order to ensure our existing partners and applicants on our waiting list are able to receive the best level of care, we had to make the decision to stop accepting new applications at the beginning of 2017.

Our Applications team work incredibly hard on processing all of the existing applications and arranging assessment days for prospective partners – a job that keeps Applications Assessor Laura Loftus very busy!

So let’s hand it over to Laura to share more about her role as Applications Assessor at our midlands centre in Osgathorpe, Leicestershire.

What is your job title and what are your responsibilities?

My job title is Applications Assessor. Our department is responsible for processing people who apply for and wish to take on a canine partner. My role involves reading through applications and if the person qualifies for one of our dogs, they will be invited for an initial assessment day.

The applicant will come to one of our two centres for the day and work with our dogs in training. This gives us the chance to assess in person whether someone is suitable for a dog and if they are truly committed and feel like an assistance dog would benefit them. The applicant will also get the chance to practise walking the dogs on a lead, getting them to retrieve items and exercising them on the field.

At the end of the day, I will let them know how we plan to proceed with their application, and if all goes well the next step is to arrange for one of our occupational therapists to visit their homes. The home assessment is designed to make sure that the applicant’s home is suitable for the placement of a canine partner. Occasionally, I will do these home visits if they are local to the midlands centre.

Another part of my role is to visit the applicants home to assess any existing pet dogs currently in their home to ensure they will adapt well to a canine partner. This is where my demonstration dog OJ steps in! We will go lead walking to a park with the pet dog before returning to the house all together. This gives me the chance to see if the pet dog is comfortable with a canine partner around that is working with the applicant, and if there are any issues around sharing space and toys within the home.

Now that the applications list is closed due to the high demand last year, the team are working hard in processing some applications that remain active from before we closed. We will also be kept busy with any successor applications that come through (applications from existing partners whose current dog may have retired or is no longer able to work), as well as supporting other departments where needed.

What experience do you have in this area?

I have been in this role for 1 ½ years now but have worked for Canine Partners for nearly 5 years in total. I was previously an advanced trainer for Canine Partners and placed over 20 dogs.

Before this I went to Chester University and studied Animal Behaviour and Welfare whilst volunteering at a local dog training club. When volunteering I worked with a very experienced dog trainer and behaviourist who volunteered her instructing skills to Dog AID, an organisation that trains people’s own dogs to be assistance dogs. This is where I worked closely with a lady who trained her own black Labrador puppy up to be her full working assistance dog – and where I got my inspiration from to continue in this field.

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?

Working with people where you can tell that a canine partner is going to change their lives. Seeing them work with the dogs on their assessment days can be so inspiring knowing exactly how much our dogs could help.

What is the biggest challenge in what you do?

Having to give negative news to applicants or work with people who end up not being suitable to have a canine partner. This is often a joint decision between ourselves and the applicant but can still be hard for people to come to terms with.

Do you have any hobbies outside of work?

I currently have my own demonstration dog, OJ, who is a yellow Labrador. I attend agility training with him each weekend and enjoy the relaxation of a long dog walk after work. I also used to do bouldering, a version of low level rock climbing without harnesses, and hope to start this again this summer.

What do you get up to on your days off?

I have family on the coast of Wales so enjoy weekends away enjoying the beach with family, friends and canines of course!


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