The US is introducing a Russian Mastiff puppy to its litter of English Bull Terriers, with hopes it will help them cope with the rapid spread of autism, officials said Monday.
A Russian mastiff is pictured here at a dog park in the Siberian city of Yekaterinburg, Russia, on March 3, 2018.
The US adopted two of the dogs in May, one with a medical condition that has led to severe cognitive problems.
It also brought two of its own dogs into the country to help ease the strain on the already strained relationship between the United States and Russia.
The US Department of Agriculture, in a statement, said the dogs are being adopted to help “rebalance the balance” between the two countries’ diplomatic ties and to ease the transition period that will occur when the dogs come home.
The mastiffs were brought to the United Kingdom as part of a program to train dogs to recognize and respond to the needs of people with autism and other developmental disabilities, according to the statement.
It said the puppies were trained to learn to walk on their own, and that the breed has been tested for “severe and persistent cognitive impairment.”
They were then trained to use social cues to communicate with people with developmental disabilities and with people who have a disability.
The puppies also are to be given a physical exam, which will be carried out before they are adopted.
The program aims to address “the challenges that are facing people with special needs and autism in the United State, and help improve their quality of life,” the USDA said.
The USDA added that the mastiffs will be adopted through the UK-based British Shepherd Association, a charity that works with the disabled to provide dogs and cats with companionship.
The mastiffs have a “natural, low cost” veterinary fee, the statement said.