Victim Support – Use of Therapy Dogs in Courtooms

Recently I learned more about Therapy Dogs being utilized in Reno, NV inside the courtroom. The use of therapy dogs was geared to help victims of Domestic Violence be more comfortable testifying as witnesses. Justice Dogs in Reno, NV provide an amazing service for individuals who may have extreme anxiety/fears about potentially facing their abuser in court.

This got me curious if these therapy dog services were also being utilized in other court systems in Nevada or throughout the country.

Immediately upon searching it was clear that this practice is becoming more prevalent throughout the the United States. More specifically with children who have been victims of abuse. Many victims are often very hesitant to testify in court and in an attempt to reduce any further trauma to victims of abuse, these therapy dogs are providing an incredible service.

Roughly 8+ years ago this service received support from from the American Bar Association regarding the use of Canines in the Courtroom. Debra S. Hart-Cohen reported:

“However and whenever a jurisdiction chooses to include a therapy dog program, the benefits will outweigh any concerns. The human–animal bond is strong and evidence of its power is being seen in therapists’ offices, advocacy centers, nursing homes and hospitals across our country. Perhaps now it is time for the courtrooms.”

Additionally, a fantastic article written by Attorney Gabriela Sandoval Court Facility Dogs- Easing the Apprehensive Witness explains just how effective this service can be to a testifying witness-

“These professionally trained dogs accompany testifying witnesses,
including children, during trial. For child witnesses, the effects
are ‘immediate and profound.’ ‘The trust, acceptance, and
tactile comfort of a friendly dog change the physiology of the
nervous child.'”

Overall its clear by the sheer prevalence of therapy dog usage throughout the country- there is an added benefit to using them in the courtroom to try to reduce any unnecessary stress/strain upon victims. I feel that this is an invaluable resource for all courtrooms to consider using to help those struggling with highly challenging and traumatic situations. 

 

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