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  1. ITV Report

Former stray dog begins role as therapy pet inside school

A former stray dog has been given a new role as a therapy pet at a school in Derbyshire.

Staffordshire bull terrier-cross, Bella, has started work at Shirebrook Academy, working with mental health issues and those on the autistic spectrum.

Bella currently works four days week at the school and has her own school tie and official timetable.

Her duties include offering a listening ear, acting as a reading buddy and allowing herself to be stroked by students experiencing emotional distress.

Bella works four days week at the school and has her own school tie and official timetable. Credit: ITV Central

Several recent studies have tried to establish a link between pets and happiness levels inside schools and universities.

Staff at the academy say Bella's arrival has certainly made a difference.

Students sometimes can't always say what they want to say to a member of staff whereas very often, you'll notice a child speaking to Bella who probably doesn't speak a lot anyway and they'll be speaking to Bella and they'll be telling her the things that they want to tell her and they probably normally wouldn't tell an adult that.

– Helen Dodds, Shirebrook Academy

Shirebrook Academy has 840 students and was rated "outstanding" by Ofsted in 2013.

It was one of the first schools in the country to recruit mental health first-aiders and Bella's appointment is one of a number of initiatives taking place at the Academy to help students to deal with emotional and mental health issues that they face.