Everybody has heard about therapy dogs in libraries. And people all know about junkyard dogs. But I never heard about Courthouse Dogs until our student newspaper featured a little article about them. The article begins with our Massachusetts courthouse dog, Wena, who works with Community Voices, a Chelmsford, Massachusetts organization for child protection and crime victim advocacy in the courts.
Since 2003 courthouse dogs have provided comfort to sexually abused children while they undergo forensic interviews and testify in court. These dogs also assist treatment court participants in their recovery, visit juveniles in detention facilities, greet jurors and lift the spirits of courthouse staff who often conduct their business in an adversarial setting.
Courthouse dogs specialize in assisting individuals with physical, psychological, or emotional trauma due to criminal conduct. These facility dogs should be graduates from assistance dog organizations that are accredited members of Assistance Dogs International to ensure that they do not create a public danger and are stable, well-behaved, and unobtrusive to the public. Courthouse facility dogs are handled by criminal justice professionals, such as a deputy prosecutor, a law enforcement officer, a victim advocate, or a forensic interviewer.
From the home page of Courthouse Dogs, a national organization. There will be a national conference of Courthouse Dog folks in Seattle, Washington on November 8, 2013. They will be hosting guests from Chile, where they have the only Courthouse Dog program in Latin America.
Besides work as Courthouse Dogs, the service dogs who can be placed, do many other types of service. I was fascinated to read about them at Canine Companions for Independence, which is one of the leading breeders and facilities for providing service and assistance dogs. They trained both the courthouse dogs featured on websites, Wena and Molly B. in Seattle. They rely on volunteers to raise puppies and help do basic etiquette training.
They also have a page on Facebook! :-) The image above it the logo of the organization from their Facebook page.