CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WBOY) — West Virginia First Lady Cathy Justice announced on Thursday that schools in three different counties will receive therapy dogs in 2023.

According to a release, West Virginia’s Communities in Schools (CIS) Friends With Paws program seeks to place certified therapy dogs in West Virginia schools as a way of providing companionship to students.

The first three schools to receive dogs in 2023 are:

Hinton Area Elementary School in Summers County. The school will receive a male Cream Labradoodle.
Bridgeview Elementary School in Kanawha County. They will receive a male Yellow Labrador.
Oakvale Elementary School in Mercer County. They will receive a male Apricot and White Labradoodle.

“I’m so proud of this program and all it’s doing for CIS students,” First Lady Justice said. “I look forward to placing more therapy dogs in CIS schools this year. I know they will make such a difference at each of their schools.”

According to a release, the CIS program aims to forge partnerships within local communities and bring resources into schools to ensure that students remain in school and graduate.

Friends With Paws has placed nine therapy dogs in West Virginia schools since April 2022 and seeks to add more later in 2023 as more counties participate in the CIS program.

Therapy dogs are assigned to schools that are seen as the most in need of support animals. Schools are chosen from a list of schools in CIS counties where students are disproportionately affected by at-risk situations such as poverty and substance abuse.

More information about Friends With Paws can be found in a new documentary produced by West Virginia Public Broadcasting. Click here to watch.