Paws for Justice dogs provide comfort to abused kids in court

Dog teams must be certified Delta Society Pet Partners, a process that ensures that the dogs are calm in stressful situations and behave appropriately out in public — and that the handlers can respond appropriately to any situation that arises, including detecting stress in their dogs. In addition, Courteous Canine trainers temperament-test each dog and the dog-and-handlers team must pass a test together. Training and Delta Society certification classes are available at Courteous Canine and through other trainers and clubs in the Tampa Bay area.

[image-1]The project was developed with the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office in Tampa and was inspired by a similar program in Tallahassee. Program founder and Courteous Canine owner Angelica Steinker says her goal is “To make something difficult a little easier; to bring joy and smiles to an abused child when they need it.” See a short video by following this link.

For the future, Steinker is looking to expand the program, hoping to add services in Pinellas County in six months or so. To get involved, call Courteous Canine at 813-949-1465 or e-mail them: [email protected]

Testifying in court can be a terrifying experience, especially for a young child. Now, in Hillsborough County, abused children can be comforted and helped through the preparation for their court appearances by a Courteous Canine.

Courteous Canine Paws for Justice has six trained dog-and-handler teams who will assist abused children who have to testify. The teams can accompany the children to depositions and trial prep and help the child relax before and after testifying. Small dogs can sit on the child’s lap; larger dogs can lie down next to the child and offer a comforting paw to hold. If they want to, the kids can sit on the floor and cuddle the dogs. Each dog will be accompanied by two human handlers, who will wear noise-blocking headphones to protect the confidentiality of the child’s testimony.

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