Trained therapy dogs becoming more commonplace in courtrooms across the US.
Man’s best friend has long been used to help people cope with both physical and psychological problems. In recent years, courts have begun to realize the benefits that dogs can provide in the legal system, and they are beginning to employ therapy dogs to assist victims during trial.
Participating in court is a very stressful event for most people, especially young children. It can be quite an ordeal for a victim to have to recount their experiences to a prosecutor in front of the courtroom, often face-to-face with someone who has injured them.
Courts that use therapy dogs allow the dogs to accompany the victims wherever they go while they deal with legal proceedings. Studies show that the mere presence of a friendly animal can result in decreased anxiety, reduced blood pressure, lowered heart rate, increased speech and memory functions, and heightened mental clarity. Prosecutors and judges alike are finding that the company of a well-trained dog improves witness testimony and aids the court in getting to the truth by giving the victim emotional support and comfort.
There are currently over 100 dogs in 34 states, including Virginia, being used in some capacity in the legal system. The popularity of the use of the dogs is growing. As more and more courts experiment with therapy dogs it may become a common practice in the legal system when dealing with sensitive cases.