In a brilliant new approach to getting to the truth during the all-too- stressful situation of giving testimony in court, two women named Ellen and Celeste have successfully been using Labradors and Golden Retrievers!
A Conundrum Solved
While one accused of a criminal act in this country is given the right to a jury trial by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, a victim –especially a minor testifying about sexual abuse – might find the process traumatizing. The parents may not be able to be present and reliving nightmarish experiences in a courtroom situation is quite intimidating, while very possibly traumatizing the victim all over again. This is where Courthouse Dogs come in.
During the questioning, when the youngster on the stand has with him or her a furry, friendly dog with the job of making humans feel comfortable and safe, the legal process can work much more effectively. While an intimidated child is extremely uncomfortable as criminal incidents are verbally re-enacted, the calm, loving presence of one of these well-trained dogs allows the child to open up and relate what needs to be told for the sake of justice.
Getting to the Truth
Not just in the courtroom, but in an interview room, the presence of a comforting canine is useful in allowing the minor to feel more at ease during what may prove to be one of that child’s most difficult experiences ever. And, if justice is to be served, openness and truthfulness without fear of danger is what allows the court to do its intended work.
Trained to Be the Best
These particular dogs have been trained since puppyhood to alleviate stress by themselves having been trained to handle it well. A dog who has from a young age been subjected to stress then immediately reassured and comforted, ends up with just the right temperament to alleviate the fears of humans, by its mere presence. Ellen and Celeste prefer Labs and Golden Retrievers for their intelligence and their friendly manner but, of those trained, only the highest achieversare chosen for eventual courtroom duty.
More Widely Known and Accepted
At this point in time, there are 87 dogs in use in courtroom situations in 28 states. Jurisdictions in other countries, including Canada, are also now open to the idea of Courtroom Dogs.
Molly, above, is so pleased with how she’s been able to help those in the courtroom feel comfortable, she’s hitting the books, dreaming of someday passing her state’s bar exam!