Posted on April 28, 2022, by Massey Law Group
Fido is under oath! Therapy animals are being put to work in doctors’ offices, hospitals, long-term care facilities, schools, and universities because of their ability to help people cope and feel less anxiety. In addition, the legal field has created a new role for therapy animals in recent years, especially in courtrooms.
Animal-assisted therapy is on the rise because it helps individuals to cope with chronic health problems and provides comfort. For example, bonding with your pet can reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and stress and offer other health benefits. In a courtroom setting, the same benefits apply.
Attending and testifying in court can be scary. In situations with children, it often brings up painful memories and creates fear. Currently, 18 states have laws that allow facility and courthouse dogs to provide support in various settings. These range from being there to be pet and interact before testifying and remaining with a victim during their testimony or interview.
There is federal legislation called the Courtroom Dogs Act that passed the Senate in 2019. It seeks to clarify the authority federal judges have in allowing certified facility dogs into court. Organizations like the Courthouse Dogs Foundation support the legislation and provide education and support to those in the legal field who wish to have animals in court. The American Bar Association has also recognized the positive impact animals have on the vulnerable, especially children, and included the topic in their 2021 midyear meeting.
Voices for Children is a Tampa organization that works with the Guardian Ad Litem program to advocate for children in the court system. They were the first organization in Florida to offer a courthouse facility dog program. Courthouse dogs receive extensive training to bring comfort to children who have to testify in court, participate in forensic interviews, or undergo medical exams.
Tibet and Lorne are two dogs that work with Voices for Children in Tampa. Tibet recently retired after helping children for 8 years, including aiding a non-verbal abuse victim to provide details to prosecutors. Tibet also stayed by the side of a young boy whose father was on trial for killing his mother and sister and attempting to kill him. Both Tibet and Lorne have helped give a voice to children who may not physically be able to speak or are too afraid to speak.
The courage and comfort courthouse dogs offer children are remarkable. From cuddles to pets and knowing the dog is by their side — or resting a paw or their head on them. A court dog brings children peace in their turbulent lives and helps them face things no child should ever have to face.
When Massey Law Group (MLG) opened our new office in St. Petersburg in May 2021, we knew we wanted to include furry friends. So we applied to become a Pet-Friendly Certified Business by the City of St. Pete. Former Mayor Rick Kriseman launched the initiative to help make St. Pete a place where pets are included and welcomed. Mayor Kriseman even delivered our official certification personally.
MLG Founding Shareholder Starlett Massey believes in the vital role that pets play in our lives, and she wanted to ensure that the MLG team and clients are as comfortable and stress free as possible. Employees and clients are welcome to bring their pets into the office, and MLG has also adopted rescued cats, who provide daily comfort and friendship. The office felines, however, are waiting to have their day in court. Meanwhile, court dogs are providing extra love and invaluable service to the vulnerable.
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