Deaf Therapy Dog Is Helping Kids Who Need To Testify In Court

White Boxer dog, complete with head tilt.
Ginene Schultz / shutterstock

In the court system, one of the most difficult tasks for judges, attorneys, bailiffs, the jury — and even the gallery — can be watching a young child provide testimony. In too many cases, if a child has to appear in court to testify rather than submitting a videotaped deposition, something really tragic has occurred which is forcing them to appear. As difficult as it can be for everyone else in the courtroom to see that kind of thing, it is even more difficult for the child.

With that in mind, the Ninth Judicial Court of Florida has the Orange County K-9th Circuit Program according to the Ninth Judicial Courtwebsite.

One of those dogs is Karl, a 7-year-old boxer who happens to be deaf — and is therefore unfazed by any noises that may be made in the courtroom — according to Dogster. Karl is a courtroom therapy dog, and his role — when he is called into to duty — is to be a warm and loving companion to any child who has to testify. He is meant to help create a sense of warmth and protection, so that the child providing testimony can feel as at ease as possible during a very difficult time.

It is not uncommon for Karl to lay his head on a child’s lap where they can gently rub and pat him, letting them know that someone is there for them. Sometimes he does little more than sit upright in front of the child, almost presenting himself as a barrier between the child and the rest of the courtroom. Whatever it is that a child needs from Karl, he does his best to provide it.

Karl was almost put down according to Deaf Dogs Rock, but there were fortunately people who intervened and rescued him. After working with a behaviorist, Karl has learned 120 signs in ASL, which helps him perform his duties better. Karl — and all other dogs in the program — aren’t just one-time companions with the kids they help, they stay with the children they are assigned to help throughout an entire trial, and even afterwards if necessary.

When Karl isn’t needed in court, he spends time at a nearby hospice center, visits with special needs children, and goes any place that has children that could benefit from his presence. Karl is truly a companion animal that provides a multitude of services to anyone that needs him. Joanne Hart Rittenhouse, who rescued and raised Karl, believes her dog is a hero for what he does, and says that he will always be there for children that need him, People reports.

“It makes me feel really good that we can do this and help. We’ll be there as long as the child wants Karl to stay in their life. He’s helped a lot of children.”