Court Dogs of Victoria

Newest Court Support puppy-in-training, Champ, dropped in to visit the Court Services Victoria Team at the Magistrates Court in August.

Tess Stow from K9 Support brought the puppy-in-training in to meet the team so they could see first-hand the abilities of the Courts newest recruit. The Office of Public Prosecutions first adopted the use of a trained support dog to help by comforting witnesses in court or when giving evidence from a remote witness facility.

Due to the success of a 12-week pilot programme, the solicitor for Public Prosecutions John Cain announced the programme will be extended throughout the remainder of 2018. Facing many challenges moving into the Court space, there have been those like Learning and Development Specialist, Julie Morrison, and Tessa Stow from K9 Support who have championed the initiative from start. “I knew first-hand what dogs can do,” Julie said, “so I always had that in the back of my mind, and then I read about other countries using dogs in court and thought, ‘Why don’t we try something?’ ”.

Victims participating in court room proceedings find the experience extremely stressful and studies show the use of an appropriately trained dog can significantly reduce the stress of this experience, improving the efficiency and quality of the legal process. The role of a support dog is very simple, lying down on a mat beside the witness out of view of the camera and jury, the dog is trained to look out for visible signs of distress such as crying, rocking and scratching. The dog responds and offers comfort by laying it’s paw or head on the victim’s body, giving licks and cuddles.

The presence of the dog is simply to provide support and comfort and not to distraction to the proceedings. “My goal was always to get dogs into court, it was just a matter of meeting the right people,” says Tessa, a councillor who at the time was working towards the same goal by training dogs and using them to help family violence and sexual assault victims. G4S is proud to facilitate the role of the Support Dog by ensuring a smooth transition through the security screening process and educating our Court Security Officers in relation to the value of the service.

 

Court Dogs Victoria is a Non for Profit Organisation that places highly trained Trauma Support Dogs into the Legal Profession to work with people suffering grief and trauma, through violent crimes.