PAWS IN THE COURT PROJECT IS A PARTNERSHIP OF
THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF GREATER MIAMI AND
THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE OF THE COURTS
Handlers and their dogs are trained to interact with children and adults
during court proceedings
NORTH MIAMI BEACH, FL—December 1, 2014—Paws in the Courts Project, a partnership between the Humane Society of Greater Miami and the Administrative Office of the Courts, is underway in Miami-Dade County. The announcement was made by Laurie Hoffman, the executive director of the Humane Society of Greater Miami. “We are very excited to be part of this innovative and much needed project,” she says. “We have always known that dogs bring comfort to people in hospitals, but now we will be able to help those people who are anxious about being in a courtroom environment. The intent of the project is to afford the public an opportunity to experience the interaction of working with pet therapy teams.”
There are many jurisdictions in Florida and throughout the nation that are using animal therapy programs in the courts with wonderful results. Before a volunteer can be called a trainer, he must go through intensive training and receive special instructions from the Judge and the Guardian Ad Litem on courtroom decorum and rules. For example, the dog must be on a leash at all times and the handler must be in control of the leash. Dogs should be properly groomed, bathed and treated for parasites before they can participate in the program. And the pet team will not be scheduled for more than two hours shifts to avoid pet fatigue.
The arrangement provides victims and witnesses comfort and reassurance during court appearances including depositions and trials. Research has shown that interaction with pet therapy has helped many persons by reducing anxiety, providing comfort and a calming presence so that the victim or witness can testify and reduce apprehension or fear of the court process especially when testifying against an alleged abuser, as well as assist in the healing process.
Some of the dogs in the program are: Bailey, an eight year old Havanese who is a non-shedding and non-allergenic dog. Bailey spent more than four years at the Ruth Kruse School visiting children who would practice their spelling words and read their favorite books to him; Mickey is an eight year old Labrador retriever who weighs 79 pounds. He is great with children and seems to never tire. He currently stars in infomercials and commercials; and Wally, a three and a half year old Portuguese Waterdog who is also non-shedding and non-allergenic. Wally recently helped a third grader master reading a complete book by the end of the school year which was a great success for the child.