Therapy dogs go on trial

Published: 4 Apr 2017

NSW will trial the use of therapy dogs to support children and vulnerable victims during courthouse visits.

The six-month trial begins in Manly on 27 April 2017 with two therapy dogs assisting victims and helping reduce the stress of appearing in court.

Therapy dogs will be located in public waiting areas, as well as safe and remote witness rooms four mornings a week from 9am to 10.30am, excluding Wednesday.

The therapy dogs will support and comfort adult and child victims and witnesses in public waiting areas before and after they give evidence to help them feel calm in court.

If a victim or witness is particularly distressed, arrangements will be made for the therapy dog to sit with them privately.

The success of the trial in Manly will determine whether the program will roll out across NSW.

Attorney General Mark Speakman said the trial is a wonderful initiative.

“We know court proceedings can be distressing and overwhelming, particularly for young children, which is why the government is piloting the use of companion animals in our courthouses,” Mr Speakman said.

“Research shows having a dog to talk to and pat can calm people who are feeling scared and nervous, a phenomenon referred to as the pet effect.”

In Sydney, therapy dogs regularly visit intensive care, spinal and burns units at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney Children’s Hospital, and Westmead Hospital.

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