(N.Morgan) When children are required to testify in a court case, it can be a very scary and traumatic experience which may leave scars that last a lifetime.
With that in mind, the K9 Circuit Program was developed to provide support to these little ones and the dogs that escort these children into court are some of the most extraordinary animals on the planet.
“Think about how a child must feel. They have to face the person who has hurt them, they have to sit in front of a bunch of strangers and tell a really painful story, and most of the time they’re not even with their family while they’re testifying,” said Joanne Rittenhouse, one of the dog handlers.
“All the dogs make everyone calm; they have a good presence,” she continued.
Studies have shown that people are better able to recollect facts and provide more accurate information regarding traumatic events when they are calm.
With the assistance of the dog teams, children and adults are able to relieve their anxiety about the underlying traumatic events and provide more precise testimonies in court proceedings.
These wonderful dogs allow children to feel comfort and security in the midst of these trying situations.
One very special therapy dog named Karl is one of 6 dogs in the K9 Circuit Program. He was born deaf, knows sign language, and is an amazing support to the kids he comes in contact with.
“Karl gave her the courage to go through with the trial. I couldn’t even get her out of the car when we first started and towards the end she was getting out of the car just to go and see Karl,” added dog handler Carol Feiner.
The Ninth Judicial Circuit is the first Florida circuit to utilize both pet therapy dog teams and a professionally trained, ADA certified dog and its handler. All pet therapy dogs and their owners must be TDI certified members of Companions for Courage, currently the only provider approved to work in the Ninth Circuit.
The Ninth Circuit is also fortunate to have been awarded a Courthouse Facility Dog who regularly works with children at the Juvenile Justice Center. This dog was bred, trained and provided through Canine Companions for Independence, a nationally recognized provider of service dogs.
If you’d like to know more about K9 Circuit Program see their website here: https://www.ninthcircuit.org/about/programs/k9th-circuit-program