The Good Boys of the Judicial System
How courtrooms are using service dogs to help victims of crime.
With the news that the Spokane police force is launching a sexual assault helpline, and offering the use of a support dog named Walker, it seemed time to find the other good boys and girls employed by courts to ease victims of crime.
The first case of a courthouse facility dog was reported in 2003 at the King County Courthouse in Seattle, Washington. Jeeter, a white Labrador, was brought in to help two young twin girls testify in a court case against their father.
“While we were waiting in the hall to testify, he approached the girls and placed his head on their laps,” said the girls’ mother. “He knew they needed him then.”
Since then, dogs have been brought into multiple courthouses worldwide to help victims tell their stories with a bit of ease.
Lol, the black Labrador who lives at the local fire station, has worked at the Cahors courthouse in southwest France for two years.
Prosecutor Frédéric Almendros heard about a court in Seattle using dogs as a support feature under challenging cases and decided to try it out for himself.
“After examining a case I call for the dog’s help if I believe its comforting presence will help victims open up about what happened, or even when they have to testify in court,” he told the BBC. “The dog sitting next to them in court has often helped victims handle the stress of a trial.”
The dogs must be trained and certified to be allowed into court and are accompanied by a qualified trainer. However, some attorneys have protested the use of dogs in their cases.
In 2018, a Denver defence lawyer told the Chicago Tribune, “I think it distracts the jurors from what their job is, which is to determine the truthfulness of the testimony. It tends to imply…