Pawsitive Therapy available for people at court
The ACT Magistrates Court is piloting a new program to help relieve the anxiety and stress some people may experience while attending court.
The program is in partnership with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and involves a Therapy Dog named Quota, routinely visiting the Children’s Court and remote witness suites.
Courts can be stressful places
Chief Magistrate, Lorraine Walker said, “Courts can be stressful places and the presence of a Therapy Dog can help and lower their anxiety. This program will give people at the court the opportunity to engage with the Therapy Dog and improve their overall experience.”
The program is an extension of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s Pets As Therapy (PAT) program which has been around for more than 30 years. The PAT program involves training dogs to engage with people and respond to their needs. The dog's presence can help calm people and lower their anxiety levels.
According to Chace Richardson from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, Therapy Dogs offer a different type of service to a Guide Dog. “We know that [court] can be a very overwhelming experience for victims of crime, witnesses and young children. Having a dog to pat or a nose resting on your knee can offer real comfort,” Mr Richardson said.
Training Therapy Dogs
The Therapy Dogs are particularly chosen to provide companionship and support in busy environments like courts, and they undertake vigorous training.
At approximately eight weeks old, puppies start important foundation training to help develop their key strengths. Training and support is also tailored to suit each dog’s individual development needs.The dogs are then assessed at 12-14 months and matched to the roles that best suit their individual strengths.
Therapy Dogs can undertake further training where they are exposed to mobility equipment, noises, traffic, car travels, cafes, children, other dogs, residential areas, rural areas, parks and waterways.
About Quota the Therapy Dog
Quota, who is the hero of the pilot program at the ACT Magistrate’s Court, has been carefully chosen for his role. He visits the court with his handler from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT for several hours each week with a sole purpose of engaging with the public and ‘being patted’.
The positive effect for everyone
Chief Magistrate, Lorraine Walker is optimistic about the program and its outcomes in the ACT. She points out that Therapy Dogs not only help victims of crimes or witnesses but also have a positive effect on staff, police and lawyers.
“While still in its experimental phase, the 6-month pilot might become a permanent service for court users if successful,” she said.
See Quota in action at the Magistrates Court in the video below.