Testifying in court can be a very stressful event. Many testifying have faced very traumatic events and have already suffered greatly. Additionally, they may have to face their attackers. The process is daunting enough for anyone, but may be especially difficult for children. Under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, defendants have the right to face their accusers. Research demonstrates that testifying on the stand can intensify the trauma young victims suffer, according to Upworthy. But now there are dogs that comfort people in some courtrooms.
Ellen, a retired prosecutor, and Celeste, a veterinary doctor, run a business called Courthouse Dogs. Ellen stated the following according to Metro.
“When a person is reliving a traumatic event, they experience physiological reactions similar to what they had when the event was taking place. This adversarial system [of testifying in front of your attacker] is brutal. A lot of people come out damaged by it.”
The dogs can help calm someone or even lower their blood pressure not only when someone is testifying but also when they are interviewed by a prosecutor or at other similar times during the judicial process.
And these are very special dogs who are trained from a very young age. They are trained regarding not only how to behave in a legal setting but also how to handle the stressful environment they will face on a regular basis. Usually, Labrador or golden retrievers are used. There are already about 87 dogs working in some capacity in the judicial system in 28 states. But the program is beginning to go worldwide, with dogs even in Chile and Canada.
The hope is that the dogs will relax people — whether innocent or guilty — enough that they will state the truth. When people start petting the dogs, they relax and begin opening up and may even be able to talk about very traumatic events. Courthouse Dogs hopes to have the dogs in interview rooms as well as courthouses around the globe. The theory used to be to make a defendant uncomfortable so that he or she would blurt out the truth. Now, however, Ellen is telling judges that technique doesn’t work. Ellen stated, “I think it’s revolutionizing this process. I’m fairly confident this practice is here to stay and it will only grow….I used to think, when I went into the courtroom, I was supposed to make the witnesses squirm, uncomfortable, so they’d somehow blurt out the truth. But now I’m telling judges, that technique doesn’t work.”
Animal lovers know how comforting pets can be. There are even programs in jails where inmates rehabilitate cats and dogs. The animals have been found to have a comforting effect on the inmates too. A prison program that began a year ago in July saved 43 dogs and 16 cats. At the Maryland Correctional Training Center (MCTC), located south of Hagerstown, the program has been a success, according to an article in the Inquisitr.
[Photo Courtesy Seattle Police Department and Video Courtesy YouTube]