TAMPA, FL – September 17, 2010 – According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, 74% of all children involved in cases of abuse are under 10 years of age. Oftentimes, these same young citizens are called upon by the courts to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their abuser.
While court proceedings can be unavoidable, they can also be an incredibly stressful and painful experience for the young victim involved.
To help ease the discomfort of facing the courtroom alone, Tampa’s premiere positive reinforcement dog school, Courteous Canine, has partnered with the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit to offer Courteous Canine Paws for Justice.
Developed by Kelley Purpura, the Victim Counselor for the State Attorney Office and Angelica Steinker, founder of Lutz-based Courteous Canine, Courteous Canine Paws for Justice sets the standard for both the handlers and their therapy dogs. All participants are hand selected and have graduated from the Canine Good Citizen Class, as well as received certification as a Delta Society Pet Partner.
“Using Courteous Canine Paws for Justice not only relaxes the child, but can help the prosecution secure more comprehensive testimony from the victim, which in turn can help attorneys win cases,” Steinker points out.
To protect the confidentiality of the child’s information, handlers are equipped with noise-canceling headphones throughout proceedings.
“When the dogs’ use is requested for a case, they are always accompanied by two trained handlers so there are always at least two sets of eyes on the dog’s reaction,” explains Steinker. “We presently have nine teams using every breed from a Papillion to a Golden Retriever.”
All requests to utilize Courteous Canine Paws for Justice must be made through Angelica at Courteous Canine or through the State Attorney’s Office. To be considered as a participant for the Courteous Canine Paws for Justice program, please send your name, phone number and your dog’s information including breed, veterinarian and any certifications to firstname.lastname@example.org.