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Courthouse Therapy Dogs


Stephanie Perkins

on 23 June 2015

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Transcript of Courthouse Therapy Dogs

Group Conflict
Zoonotic Diseases
Sudden reaction may cause injury to person/animal
Just a little extra

When people are with animals, some feel a spiritual fulfillment or a sense of oneness with nature and life.
CourthouseTherapy Dogs
Who we are
150+ Teams
26 Years
Over 50 facilities in the Big Bend Area
Where we visit
* Long-Term Care Facilities
* Assisted Living Facilities
* Well-Senior Programs
* Adult Day Cares
Medical and Rehab Facilities
Runaway Shelters
Facilities for Adults with Developmental Disabilities
Behavioral Health Facilities
Facilities for Homeless Families
Courthouse Therapy Dogs
Support for Victims of Violent Offenses (mainly children)
What Types of Animals Can Be Used?
Program Areas

Reading Education Assistance Dogs
2 areas of concentration
Support for children and families involved in Dependency Court
Some of our Teams
The mission of this program is to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered therapy teams as literacy mentors.

It improves children's reading and communication skills by employing a powerful method: reading to a dog.
Animal Assisted Therapy
What is AAT?
Animal assisted therapy (AAT) uses trained companion animals to promote optimal health for mind, body and spirit for people experiencing a wide range of physical and mental challenges
How it helps
In 2011, Florida was the first state in the US to pass legislation authorizing use of service or therapy animals in courts hearing sexual offense cases under certain circumstances. This effort was spearheaded by TMH Animal Therapy.
Animal therapy emphasizes psychological support and physical healing
A study shows that:

"Animal-assisted therapy was associated with reduced state anxiety levels for hospitalized patients with a variety of psychiatric diagnoses, while a routine therapeutic recreation session was associated with reduced levels only for patients with mood disorders." (Barker, S. & Dawson, K. 1998)
Within the last few decades, studies supporting the health benefits of companion animals have emerged. Cardiovascular effects are often the focus, due partly to findings from a 1980 study that reported longer survival rates following heart attacks for pet owners compared with people with no pets.
York Retreat in England, an establishment that was founded by the Quakers for the treatment of mental illness, was the first to document the use of animals as an adjunct to therapy. However, there is mention of animals being used therapeutically as early as the 9th century in Belgium.
Sigmund Freud believed that dogs had a "special sense" that allowed them to judge a person's character accurately. His favorite chow chow, Jo-Fi, attended all of his therapy sessions.
In 1859, Florence Nightingale wrote that a small pet “is often
an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic cases especially.”
According to a study published in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences (July, 2002), just spending a small amount of time with a dog each week reduces the feelings of loneliness in long-term care residents.
Who we visit
AAT is a goal-directed intervention in which an animal that meets specific criteria is an integral part of the treatment process. AAT is directed and/or delivered by a health/human service professional with specialized expertise, and within the scope of practice of his/her profession.

Studies report that childen who live in homes in which a pet is considered a member of the family are more empathetic than children in homes without pets.
Interactions with animals can help individuals focus more on their environment rather than themselves.

An animal's acceptance is non-judgmental, forgiving, uncomplicated and unconditional.

Studies have shown that when dogs and cats visit a care facility, there is more laughter among residents than during any other entertainment or therapy time.

Increased mental stimulation occurs because of the opportunities animals provide for communicating with other people, recalling memories and entertainment.
Much has been written about the correlation between touch and health. This "Low-Tech/High-Touch" therapy may be just what the Dogtor ordered!
Research has shown a dramatic, measurable decrease in heart rate and blood pressure when interacting with a therapy animal. It works by reducing the amount of cortisol, a stress-inducing hormone, in the blood system. Animals can have a calming effect on people, help reduce anxiety and can encourage socialization.
When is the use of therapy dogs
not beneficial?
Initial Screening
8 Weeks of Training Classes
Evaluation by licensed evaluators every two years
Each team is covered by $1 million of liability insurance
Teams receive supplemental screening/training for specialized program areas
Research shows....
The psychological and moral comfort of a presence at once humble and understanding — this is the greatest benefit that the dog has bestowed upon man.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley
The human-animal bond has existed for thousands of years and is an essential component to the success of programs utilizing animals.
In 1982, the AVMA officially recognized the human-animal bond due in part to hundreds of clinical trials that confirmed what people have known for thousands of years...
Another amazing discovery is that petting a dog or cat for as little as a minute stimulates the production of oxytocin (Odendaal and Meintjes, 2003). Oxytocin is the hormone that enhances trust, cooperation and love between a parent and their child.
Petting a therapy animal also releases endorphins making people feel better, diminishing feelings of pain, depression and loneliness.
In September 2010, the medical journal, Psychoneuroendocrinology, published a study that compared levels of cortisol in 42 children with Autism before and during the introduction of a dog into their families and after they were removed for a short period.
The results showed a significantly diminished Cortisol Awakening Response upon introduction of the dogs which lends support to the behavioral benefit of dogs for children with autism.
This is my dog!!!!
If you're interested in research projects/studies involving animal assisted therapy please contact Myra Hurt, Associate Dean for Research here at the College of Medicine .
Add Court Program info
Imagine this....
You are a child who has endured physical and/or sexual abuse or has witnessed or been the victim of a violent crime
What's the process like?
Go to a huge office building
Meet a lot of new people
Don't understand everything that's happening
You are asked repeatedly to tell the unpleasant details to strangers
Don't know who..or if, it's safe to trust
Imagine feeling scared, unhappy and wishing you could just leave
Now imagine seeing this!
Learning Objectives:

•Develop an appreciation for the animal-human bond & understand the historical uses of animals to serve

•Identify the behavioral traits & training competencies for Therapy Dogs

•Identify the implementation challenges of HB 251

•Assist in drafting a Best Practice Model for further development, dissemination and use statewide
Another study by Dr. Barker showed that more than 1/3 of owners in the study felt closer to their dogs than to any other family member.

Barker and Barker (1988,1990)
Researchers have found that children owning pets show higher measures of self-concept, self-esteem and empathy than those who do not.

Poresky and Hendrix (1990),
Van Houtte and Jarvis (1995)
A retrospective study showed a strong supportive role of pets in the childhood of sexual abuse survivors. The animal was in some cases, the only reported supportive character in the survivor's childhood.

Barker et al (1997)
More recent studies have found sexual abuse survivors with a strong human-animal bond in childhood report less abusive behavior as adults and lower anger levels than those lacking a strong bond.

Nebbe (1998)
HB 251

•Effective July 1, 2011

•Large in scope – 28 pages

•Our focus? Lines 122-136 -- FS 92.55 amended to read:

Judicial or other proceedings involving victim or witness under the age of 16 or person with mental retardation; special protections; use of registered service or therapy animals
The court may set any other conditions it finds just and appropriate on the taking of testimony by a child, including the use of a service or therapy animal that has been evaluated and registered according to national standards, in any proceeding involving a sexual offense (lines 126 – 130).
When deciding whether to permit a child to testify with the assistance of a registered service or therapy animal, the court shall take into consideration the age of the child, the interests of the child, the rights of the parties to the litigation, and any other relevant factor that would facilitate the testimony by the child (lines 130 – 136).

Judicial discretion is granted
What makes a great therapy dog?

Good therapy dogs need to be the kind of dogs who ADORE people, all people, and want nothing more than to connect with them. It is the emotional connection that is often the most therapeutic.
Physically Calm

Leaping, licking, pawing and body slamming just don’t work in courthouses, senior centers and hospitals...often these energetic, friendly dogs are better candidates when they are older.
Psychologically Sound and Non-reactive

These dogs need to be "emotionally" mature, able to handle frustration and deal with the world in a calm way...context matters. Not all dogs are "bombproof" in all situations. It's important to know your dog!
Clean and Healthy
It's a wonderful bonus if they are aware of their job!
Some dogs more than happily sit with strangers or participate in structured therapy plans. They seem to sense why they are there, seek out people who are especially needy and make an emotional connection with them that changes their life.
Smoky's Story

A Yorkshire terrier was pulled out of an abandoned foxhole in New Guinea and adopted by an American soldier in 1944.

The soldier and Smoky became inseparable. He carried her in his duffel bag through twelve air combat missions. When the soldier was recovering from wounds in the hospital, little Smoky was brought in to cheer him up. She soon cheered up others as well and became a regular visitor, with him teaching her some tricks to entertain them. She could spell her name, peddle a scooter, walk a tight wire blindfolded, and perform agility stunts long before agility became a popular dog sport.
One of the original courthouse dogs to aid young victims was a German Shepherd named Vachss, used by the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1990s. In 1994, Vachss was presented with the Hero of the Year award for his role comforting children in the courtroom while they testified in abuse cases.
Vachss helped law enforcement & mental health professionals get verbalized information linked to physical and sexual abuse.
Rankin County Judge Jim Smith recognized a child’s crisis mindset about court testimony.
“The dog steeled the child's courage and helped her testify confidently.”

"We're not used to seeing children react like that in a courtroom situation . . . Vachss opens them up & helps the child testify in a very clear, forthright manner.”

(Judge Jim Smith)
Significant Milestones
2001: NOVA Crisis Response Team uses therapy dogs for crisis interventions with victims and recovery workers after 9/11.
2003: Kings County Washington, Prosecutor's office uses Jeeter, a trained assistance dog, to offer support and crisis intervention to a minor witness of violence during a trial.
2004: Ellie becomes a full time “courthouse dog” for the same office
2007: US Army deploys therapy dogs to Iraq to provide intervention services for soldiers & support workers on the front lines of a long term violent crisis.
2008: A Lab-Newfoundland mix named Buddy went to work with the Victim Witness Assistance Unit with The Office of the State Attorney in Carroll County Maryland
Therapy Dogs versus Service Dogs
People often confuse “therapy dogs” with “service dogs,” but these are two distinct terms.
Therapy Dogs

A therapy dog is specially trained to offer comfort, companionship, and affection to those in need.
To qualify as a therapy dog, the animal must be evaluated & registered with a national organization such as Therapy Dogs International (TDI) or Pet Partners
Both TDI and Pet Partners offer training & volunteer opportunities for both the dog and the dog handler.
The therapy dog is only half of the therapy team. The handler, most frequently the dog owner, is the other half
Service Dogs
Animal Assisted Interventions
The term "animal-assisted intervention" encompasses both animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and animal-assisted activities (AAA)
AAA provides opportunities for motivational, educational, recreational and/or therapeutic benefits to enhance the quality of life. AAA[s] are delivered in a variety of environments by specially trained professionals, paraprofessionals and/or volunteers in association with animals that meet specific criteria (Delta Society, 1996).

Animal-Assisted Activity
What is AAA?
Benefits of AAIs for children who have been abused
Aids in building rapport and promotes engagement with the child, who may be nervous or withdrawn (Parish-Plass, 2008).
Acts as comfort or support for the child and reduces anxiety and stress (Serpell, 1996)
Provides a healing touch to a child and removes feelings of social alienation (Parish-Plass, 2008)
Presenting an inappropriate animal that has not been properly trained and evaluated for its skill and aptitude for therapy work can be unsafe for the child as well as inhumane to the animal
An untrained or inexperienced handler may not be able to properly serve in his/her role as the animals' advocate
It is critical that only credentialed and experienced handler-animal teams be considered for working in the judicial system.
Animal-Assisted Services in the Courts
What makes a team appropriate for AAIs?
If a therapy animal is registered through a national therapy animal registry, the team is insured through that organization when acting in a volunteer capacity.
Look for a highly credible, standards-based program that provides comprehensive handler training and evaluation of the team to ensure that they possess the appropriate skills and aptitude and handler knowledge to interact safely and effectively.
What makes a great handler?
Demonstrates appropriate treatment of people and animals
Has the social skills needed for interacting with people (eye contact, smiles, confident posture, ability to converse)
Is pleasant, calm and friendly toward animal when interacting
Acts as their animal's advocate at ALL times!
Protects and respects the animal's needs while simultaneously interacting appropriately with client
What do you want in a team?
A team should work in harmony
Interactions between handler and animal should be pleasant and not distract others
Inspire confidence
How it all got started....
The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or herself. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:

_ Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.

_ Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.

_ Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.

A service animal is not a pet.
Defense Objections
Although HB 251 is clear, there are some predictable objections.
Potential prejudice to the defendant because of increased sympathy for the witness. Because the dog is so appealing, it makes the witness look more likeable or vulnerable.
If the judge or prosecutor refers to the dog as a “therapy dog” the defense can argue that it’s a comment on the evidence, implying that the witness is in fact a victim in need of therapy.
If the dog is referred to as an “advocate dog” then the defense may argue that the appearance of the dog enhances the credibility of the witness.
Other problems...
Juror prejudices? Pro-dog & anti-dog

Juror allergies?

Trial continuances: Are there unintended consequences such as re-victimization and doing further harm caused by a trial continuances due to the use of animal teams, such as last minute motions, juror issues, etc.

The ones to watch
Rosie in Dutchess County, NY
Her role as the first judicially approved courtroom dog in New York aided in winning a conviction in a sexual battery case. An appeal specific to Rosie has been filed.
Defense objections to Rosie

Rosie was in the witness box nuzzling the15-year-old girl who was testifying that her father had raped and impregnated her. Rosie sat by the teenager’s feet. At particularly bad moments, she leaned in.

Rosie responds to people under stress by comforting them, whether the stress comes from confronting a guilty defendant or lying under oath.

“Jurors are likely to conclude that the dog is helping victims expose the truth. “Every time she stroked the dog, it sent an unconscious message to the jury that she was under stress because she was telling the truth.”

“There was no way for me to cross-examine the dog”.
Associated Case Law
Support Persons Case Law

The presence of a support person increases some children’s capacity to testify and enhances the child’s direct and cross-examination.

State v. Johnson, 528 N.E.2d 567 (Ohio 1986) (allowing 8-year old to sit on aunt’s lap)

Baxter v. State, 522 N.E.2d 362 (Ind. 1988) (allowing 9-year old to hold hand of support person)

Soap v. State, 562 P.2d 889 (Okla. Crim. App. 1977) (allowing 7-year old to hold hands with support person)

Comfort Items Case Law

It is generally accepted that a court has discretion to permit the child to hold a comfort item such as a doll or teddy bear while testifying if it makes findings that there is a “particular” or “compelling” need for the comfort item.

Smith v. State, 119 P.3d 411 (Wyo. 2005) (15-year old allowed to hold teddy bear)

State v. Cliff, 782 P.2d 44 (Idaho Ct. App. 1989) (8-year old holding doll upheld)

State v. Hakimi, 98 P.3d 809 (Wash.Ct. App. 2004) (7-year old allowed to carry a doll).

Issues of Equal Access & Judicial Purview
Sample Jury Instruction Provided by the National Crime Victim Law Institute:

Testifying in court is an unfamiliar and stressful event for most people; these dogs are used in a courthouse setting to help reduce witness anxiety and are available to any witness who requests one.

Terry Campos, J.D. Practical Tips and Legal Strategies for Protecting Child-Victims While Testifying (NCVLI News 10thEdition), 2008 p. 12-15

What's already working in Florida?
Courthouse Therapy Dogs
Second Judicial Circuit (Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla Counties)

FLA-Four Legged Advocates, Inc.
Tenth Judicial Circuit (Polk County)

Paws For Justice
Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (Hillsborough County)

Sixth Judicial Circuit (Pinellas and Pasco Counties)

What would the best program look like?

Facilitated discussion...from the right place, to the right team, to the time:

Together, we can do this! Let's share best practices and work toward solutions to help our communities!

What's next?
Drafts of the suggested ‘best practices’ will be compiled & sent out to participants

FNVWS will host a conference call for all programs interested in tweaking the draft proposal

Further input will be sought from members of the Judiciary, Florida Prosecuting Attorney’s Association, and other interested parties

A final model will be disseminated to participants and members of the statewide legal community

It is estimated that dogs are being used in judicial programs in 16 states and 40 jurisdictions in the US
2007: The 2nd Judicial Circuit of Florida began its Courthouse Therapy Dogs Program, one of the first to use therapy dogs in judicial proceedings
NDAA is working with Pet Partners and front-line AAT professionals to determine whether additional evaluation standards are needed beyond those listed in the TASK manual.
Therapy animals, in general, are not legally recognized by the ADA (only service/assistance animals), but the phrase "therapy animal" (not just limited to dogs) has been widely used in research studies and literature dating back to the 1960's.

Participated in 27 events, 16 cases (15 felonies and 1 delinqency)

Worked with 21 children ages 4-17

8 handlers with 9 dogs
We began dependency court visits in 2009 in Wakulla County visiting twice a week. Over 60 dependency visits have been made in Wakulla County and approximately 8 dependency visits in Leon County
Courthouse Therapy Dogs...

We have 21 volunteer teams of which 2 are not appropriate for criminal cases and four have not been active.

Two teams are suitable to enter the courtroom, if necessary.
Time for a break!!!!
Petting an animal significantly reduces stress and anxiety.
Full transcript