Using Therapy Dogs to Respond to Child Victims
Andrea Cardona, Curtis Allen  -  2011/4/27
http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ovcproviderforum
 
 
There are a number of programs that offer training for dogs to do work with child victims. Is there a particular training program that you would recommend? Also, how do you pick the dog, to get one with the right disposition to work with children? For programs operating on a shoestring budget, is there an affordable way to provide this service to kids? If yes, please outline.
 
1.  Betty Fisher
 I think one of the most important issues would be to do a lot of testing around children of all ages. Not all of the certifying agencies do tesing specific to children in their certification exams. If you do an internet search, you can see what is expected to pass a certification for therapy dog work. You may notice that children are not included in the test.
 
2.  Betty Fisher
 Sue, I'm so happy to see that you use a Rottie. I have also found them to be calm and great for therapy dogs but sometimes there is some fear of certain breeds. This is a great way to help kids as well as set an example of why breed bias is bad. I currently have a certified therapy dog who is a large mixed breed and am in the process of getting my German Shepherd certified.
 
3.  Anne Ciemnecki
 It would be useful to get the dog therapy certified because liability insurance comes with the certification.
 
4.  Patti Toth
 Courthouse dogs are being used with great results in our state (WA) and elsewhere and you can find info about this program and specific info about the cost at:http://courthousedogs.com/faqs.html. Ellen ONeill-Stephens & Celeste Walsen are more than willing to help with ideas about how to pay for a courthouse dog & their contact info can be found there.
 
5.  Sue
 Hi Renee,I have 2 breeds that are certified therapy dogs: Rottweilers and an American Water Spaniel. I have found the Rottweilers are very calm and not easily excitable compared to the Spaniels. My dogs were not raised with children, but were well socialized. First of all, therapy dogs must have basic obedience skills. You should do this as a starting point after you have the dog. Any mixed breed or purebred is acceptable as long as they have a stable, friendly temperament. Getting a purebred from a reputable breeder is helpful in that you will see what the parents temperaments are like, how the pups were handled, if they were temperament tested, and if the breeder guarantees the temperament. The AKC website has breeder referral and you could start from there.
 
6.  Celeste Walsen
 Some of the accredited service dog organizations in the US provide these dogs free of charge. One such nonprofit is Canine Companions for Independence - www.cci.org.
 
7.  GH Andrea
 Don't we all understand a shoestring budget. I'd say we are on a fishing string budget personally. :) However it can be done! Due to a loss in funding, myself and our advocates have taken over the financial responsibility of the care for our canine partners. Therefore this minimized the cost for the agency. We also worked closely with our local vet to get some services donated andor reduced. I would suggest you do the same. The only real cost that the agency MUST incur is liability insurance. Most national therapy dog programs offer insurance with the dogs registrationhowever this is only when the human is volunteering and receiving NO compensation.
 
8.  GH Andrea
 As for the disposition of the dogs, all of ours dogs have been raised around children and have been socialized with everything from infants, toddlers, school aged children, teens, other dogs, pets, etc. We find that our dogs love working with children and associate well with them based on their age, etc. (For example, they will gingerly take a cookie from a toddler. And play ball with a school aged child.) You cannot get a certification for a dog to be used for therapy until they have reached 2 years of age. Therefore at that time, you should be able to tell the dogs temperament. (Which is part of most certification processes.)
 
9.  GH Andrea
 FLA Four Legged Advocates does not at this time offer a training specifically for training the dogs for use in court. The reason for this is primarily insurance and liability related. The dogs that we utilize are service dogs and have been trained for our program specifically. (We carry our own liability insurance for the dogs.) There is no certification process for service dogs; however there are many options in training therapy dogs, which is what we would suggest for use in the courtrooms, offices, etc.
 
10.  Celeste Walsen
 There is a video that describes the temperament and training needed for these dogs at http://courthousedogs.com/video_clips.html.The person in this video if Jill Felice, the founder of Assistance Dogs on the West in Santa Fe, NM. This organization has placed 4 dogs that work with crime victims.If the link does not work for you, please contact me directly at celeste@courthousedogs.com and I will resend it to you.
 
11.  Curtis
 Our program is done completely by volunteers, there is no cost to the CJC. We volunteer our time to take the dog to the center, pay for the food, vet bills and any other costs that may arise. The dogs we have are family pets so we the family take care of them. We do have a Friends Board who has offered to assist with costs so that may be something you could look in to.
 
12.  Joyce Schaum
 I got my dog at 8 wks old from our humane society and started bring him to work at 10 wks as a therapy dog in training. Now 4 yrs later, he is used for forensic interviews, court accompaniment, truancy cases and out of the box. I had the director of the humane society be on the lookout for the right temperament... socialization with childrenall types of people is key.
 
13.  Curtis
 We have a pre-evaluation that we use to test the dog which is basically a personality test to see if the dog has the disposition to work with kids. When we evaluate them we are looking for any indications of aggressiveness towards strangers, both adults and children, and other dogs. We also look to see if they are shy, withdrawn or skittish in anyway. We see what obedience they have and if they show the potential to be trained.
 
14.  stacia
 Kris Butler has a great book (sorry I can't think of the title) that outlines qualities and characteristics to look for in a therapy dog. She talks about a triad of the handler, the dog and the demands of the environment.
 
15.  Deborah Dobson
 With regard to your question about how to choose a dog, there are a number of screening methods to use to help you select a dog who has a temperment suited to work with children. If you contact me, I would be happy to help you with this.
 
16.  Curtis
 I have not used anyone to train my dog I have done all the work myself and so has the lady that helped create the program with me. I cannot give you an honest answer on that, sorry. My only advice would be to check references on the programs you have found and talk to previous customers.
 
 
My name is Ernie Quinto. I live in the Capital District of New York State (Albany area). I presently have two TDI dogs. We visit one of our area inner city schools in the TDI reading program. We also visit three psychiatric centers in our area. I very much would like to know if any of the programs that you have described exist in my area. I fully intend to attend the upcoming on line discussion(s).
 
1.  Ernie
 Thanks the reading program is very rewarding. The reaction to my dogs from the folks in the psychiatric clinics is nothing short of amazing. I recently discovered a live-in center for women & children who have been abused. I will actually be meeting with staff to introduce myself and one of the dogs tomorrow afternoon.
 
2.  Anne Ciemnecki
 I take my therapy dog on domestic violence calls, Isn't this some of the most rewarding work you have ever done? Brings together love of animals and desire to help victims?
 
3.  GH Andrea
 Ernie let me first say thank you! I love the reading dog programs and would love to see us start one here in our area! I also think that using therapy dogs in the psychiatric setting is wonderful and quite beneficial. I do not personally know of a specific organization that offers these services in NY. However I have heard that the DA in NY has utilized therapy dogs previously. Here is a link to an article that may provide you with a source in your area: http:www.fla-fla.orgPets20in20the20Courtroom.pdf
 
4.  Curtis
 I am not aware of any programs like this in your area, sorry.
 
 
Do you know of any recent formal studies that have been done to demonstrate the effectiveness of bringing children and dogs together in a therapeutic environment?
 
1.  joy
 I am a detective for phoenix pd and am trying to start a program using dogs in the forensic interviews could i get more info on that study you were just talking about
 
2.  Celeste Walsen
 One good resource on this topic, which includes extensive bibliographies, is the 2010 book entitled Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy, Third Edition: Theoretical Foundations and Guidelines for Practice. Aubrey H. Fine is the editor of this volume from Academic Press.
 
3.  Joyce Schaum
 The American Humane Society with the support of the Delta Society have developed Therapy Animals Supporting Kids (TASK) Program--there is a lot of great information on this in their program materials. So a search online.
 
4.  Marjorie Stanek
 This is a fledgling area of research, you might check into some resources by searching academic databases, or by looking into edited volumes on this topic. There are increasing numbers of researchers that examine the importance of the child pet bond, and implementing humane education, but most of the evidence is annecdotal at this point.
 
5.  GH Andrea
 It is great to build that bridge of trust between unknown adults and that child, which is beneficial far outside the realm of the court system. I personally have used Squiggly in therapeutic sessions with rape victims and can attest that it is effective and very beneficial to the child. There have also been studies that show how people with pets live a longer, happier and healthier life. As well as taking therapy dogs in nursing homes, hospitals, schools, etc. We are just starting to see the official studies on utilizing this relationship in the court system and the therapy process.
 
6.  GH Andrea
 It depends on what you call formal and how specific you are thinking. There are hundreds of studies that show the benefit of human and animal interactions. However, society is just starting to realize the benefit of utilizing this interaction in a criminal justice setting with crime victims. Therefore that specific study is just now being looked at although all my years of doing this can tell you what all the studies will findit works! Anyone that has a pet at home can testify to that benefit and its effectiveness. As well as how after a long day playing, petting, etc their dog (or other pet) is a comfort to them. Now take that same effectiveness and place it in a stressful and scary environment.
 
7.  Curtis
 I have not had very much experience in the therapeutic environment using therapy dogs. However, the work that we have done with our program at the CJC we did a study on. We decided the best way to determine the effectiveness of the program during an interview was to see how much the child spoke compared to the interviewer. So we did a word count on 146 interviews 73 without the dog in the interview, 19,920 words, and 73 with the dog in the interview, 25,668 words. We found that the child spoke 5748 more words with the dog in the interview then without the dog, an increase of 22. But the most impressive part is the un-measurable things that we see.
 
 
1. Are the dogs trained specifically for that kind of work? 2. What are the guidelines for training dogs? 3. How useful you have found the use of dogs instead of another kind of intervention?
 
1.  Agustin Antunez
 yes, please send me information about specifically training dogs and the way to get acces to that association
 
2.  Betty Fisher
 I have a dog certified through Therapy Dogs International. He is great but be aware that they don't specifically test with children. It is a very good idea to go the extra mile and make sure you dog is VERY good with children. I know one dog that passed the initial K9 Good Citizen test that was NOT good with children.
 
3.  Holly
 I have a certified therapy dog and I might add that the dog's handler needs to be trained as well. They need to understand the dog's stress signals, protect the dog from any danger they may be in, know all the proper health requirements, know when the dog is not feeling well, etc. The dogs are instinctual - the handler needs to know what they are doing!
 
4.  Joyce Schaum
 #2...See the screening requirements for therapy dogs under either the Delta Society or Therapy Dogs International as far as what the dogs need to be able to do to pass the screenings.3. In my instance, I find every day that my dog reaches people that humans can't reach. He's accepting, nonjudgmental, loves everyone, provides a sense of comfort, safety, & peace...is there another intervention that provides all this?
 
5.  Curtis
 I have only been around the dogs that have been used, sorry can't answer that.
 
6.  Curtis
 My e-mail will be posted and if you send me an address I can mail you all the information we have. We created a packet that has everything we have done, policies & procedures, testing process (pre-test and final test), applications and all the other information we have on creating a program similar to ours.
 
7.  Curtis
 Wow I dont know if there is enough room here to answer that one. But one of the most important things is socialization of the dog. They need to be around other dogs, kids, adults, strangers and people they know. They also need to be taken where there are loud noises and large crowds. The more they are used to strange things, noises and people chances are they will work out better. Thats no guarantee but it helps tremendously. A lot of obedience, one more time A LOT OF OBEDIENCE a therapy dog needs to be the most obedient dog you can imagine. They have to respond immediately to commands from their handler. The dogs we use also take and obey commands from the kids, police officers, DCFS works and volunteers at the CJC.
 
8.  GH Andrea
 I worked as a sexual assault counselorvictim advocate before without the assistance of my canine partner. What a world of difference it makes! For starters, the children know that the dog is there 100 for them, they are not asking any questions, and they arent going to rat them out of leo, sao, etc. They immediately trust the dogs and thus that trust carries over to us their advocates. Where at this point, we can explain the process, introduce them to the other cjs players and get them whatever help they need. We have found this to be extremely effective and beneficial to the victims and families we work withand I cannot imagine being a victim advocate without a canine partner now.
 
9.  Curtis
 One of the dogs we are using was originally trained for work in search and rescue. The other dog started out as a guide dog for the blind and then went into search and rescue. The most important thing I have found is; does the dogs personality fit your purpose.
 
10.  GH Andrea
 Our canines are career trained Seeing Eye dogs, so we actually had to unretrain them specifically for our usage in the court system. (As Seeing Eye dogs cannot visit, etc.) So ours have to be able to work and visit simultaneously. For others, primarily due to liability, I would suggest any therapy certification process, and then adding your specific needs for your office. (Whether you are in the cjs, therapeutic, etc. would alter what the dogs would actually do for you.) For example, depending on your specific professionagency, our dogs may not be trained specifically for your needs. It needs to be based on your program and not a general court dog training.
 
 
I use my Therapy Dog, Bessie, when I do call outs as a member of our county DVVRT. Victims are mostly adults. She accompanys me to police stations. Does anyone else use a therary dog in this manner?
 
1.  Sue
 Anne,I have not heard of using a therapy dog in this manner, but it sounds like a great idea! I have worked in Law Enforcement for many years and think that this could really help. What agency is Bessie certified through, may I ask? My dogs are certified through TDI and I have not heard of any volunteers using their dogs in response to domestic violence calls. Sue
 
2.  Celeste Walsen
 The Delta Police Department in British Columbia started using a dog named Caber in this capacity in the summer of 2010.You can read the departmental information about this dog, which they refer to as a Truama K9, at http://www.deltapolice.ca/victimservices/traumak9.php.
 
3.  Kendra Homsher
 I work with the State Juvenile Corrections and we have a therapy dog and I am the handler. I can report from my experience how well it works with juveniles and breaking down barriers and putting them at ease. We have used Hannah for groups as well as one on one sessions.
 
4.  Grayce Mayhew
 I've seen therapy dogs with adults at an Alzheimer's facility.
 
5.  Jeannette
 Our state crisis response team uses a Delta Pet Partner team like you are describing, Anne, and very successfully. I love the idea that you use your dog in crisis response at the police departments.
 
6.  Curtis
 We have only used our dogs for the children at the CJC.
 
7.  GH Andrea
 Honestly Anne, we have avoided this for a couple reasons. First being the unknowns at the home (other pets, safetyhealth of the dog, etc). We also found usually at the scenehome, the first priority was the victims immediate safety. This was also a major liability issue for us. We do however go into the policesheriff office quite frequently with our canine partners.
 
 
Have you used your therapy dog during a trial with the child victim? And were there any problems with the judge allowing the dog in the court room?
 
1.  Celeste Walsen
 Courthouse dogs have been used during courtroom testimony numerous times in Washington State. One key to overcoming resistance to the use of the dog with state's witnesses is to make the dog available for anyone who needs the emotional support of a canine companion. Please see the article from the National Crime Victims law Institute on Child on Practical Tips for Protecting Child Witnesses on pages 14 of http://www.lclark.edu/live/files/6463-practical-tips-and-legal-strategies-for-protecting.
 
2.  Patti Toth
 You may want to check the info at: http://courthousedogs.com. This is a similar program but uses professionally trained service dogs. You can find specific info about using these dogs in the courtroom there.
 
3.  Jon Southerland
 That's a very good question. Are therapy dogs allowed during a trial session in court? I would think that they would be if needed. I work in a Children's Hospital that utilizes therapy dogs on a frequent basis, and they allow service animals and therapy animals into the hospital.
 
4.  Curtis
 We have not used them in a trial yet and the only reason we have not is; because all of the cases we have had since the program started have been plead out before trial, except one I believe. The quality of disclosures with the program has lessened the chances of the case going to trial. I am sure that if we did speak to the Judge he would sign off on it. I have heard of other programs across the country that have the dogs in the courtroom. I am sure that if we did speak to the Judge he would sign off on it. I have heard of other programs across the country that have the dogs in the courtroom.
 
5.  GH Andrea
 Honestly, the jury usually does not even know there is a dog in the court room. Which is the ideawe are only there for the child and not as a parade of any kind. But be preparedthe defense does not like this idea as a general rule because the child tends to feel stronger and is more apt to give a good testimony. (Which I must say, is not our #1 priority the victim isbut it is nice for that to be a good side effect)
 
6.  GH Andrea
 Sandy, I have a service dog and therefore some of the laws are a little different. Where this has been nice is that we have been able to prove to other the benefit of utilizing the canine partners in the court room with the child victims. It has been overwhelmingly effective! We have however had defense attorneys (in the beginning) question our use of the dogs. I can say that we were never asked to leave with the dogs. Most of their arguments were not actually dog related but more so that the dog would sway the jury, tell the child what to say, etc. (Which I can attest that our dogs have never done any of the previous.)
 
 
I am interested in how to go about starting a therapy dog program in order to help children who have been victims of abuse, neglect and maltreatment. Many of the children also have co-existing psychiatric conditions in addition to an extensive trauma history. Some of the children are involved with the juvenile justice system in addition. I have seen and read about the healing and restorative power of using therapy dogs with traumatized populations and would be very interested in the process that was used to develop an effective program. Everything I have ever seen on this topic shows a win-win relationship where humans are restored and healing begins, and dogs are rescued and serve their function as helper, healer and friend.
 
1.  Deborah Dobson
 Another alternative is to have the kids work directly with the dogs - please visit our website www.caredogs.org for more information. Also, you are welcome to contact me to discuss this further.
 
2.  GH Andrea
 If your thoughts are to train and give the dogs away, I think that is a great thought. However you really need to look into the liability side of things (unfortunately). I agree with you 100 as to both sides of the thoughtsplease know that! I would suggest you look into a therapy dog certification process to see about training and certifying such dogs, in either case. It may be in your scenario, that you could become a certifier for one of those groups, and work alongside an ASPCA, Humane Society, even Animal Control.
 
3.  Curtis
 My e-mail will be posted send me an address that I can mail you the information you are requesting.
 
4.  GH Andrea
 Dana, I would agree with all of your statements. However I am a little confused as to your question. Do you want to rescue, train and give the dogs away to these people or use them in a therapeutic setting? I am going to answer you as if it was the latter. There is an amazing healing power in this. The only issues I see you running into is that of training. Many dogs may not have the right underlining temperament, etc. for this. However, many will! We work primarily with children and the dogs would thus have to have been socialized around kids. Unfortunately with rescue dogs, you do now know this history.
 
 
Any suggestions on insurance options? I'm currently covered by Delta Society and they only cover me on volunteer work.
 
1.  Molly
 I'm looking for insurance on my own since my employer will not be able to fund this. My home owner insurance said they couldn't write it in so I wasn't sure what my other options were.
 
2.  Deborah Dobson
 One of the long range goals I have with my program is to gain acceptance in using dogs as part of a therapeutic treatment for kids. I would very much like to see insurance companies paying for Animal Assisted Therapy. Please visit my website www.caredogs.org for more info and feel free to contact me to discuss this further.
 
3.  Joyce Schaum
 Working for a prosecutor's office, our county government has insurance on my therapy dog. Check with your risk management person if you intend to use a therapy dog at work.
 
4.  Curtis
 We have an insurance policy that covers incidents that may occur at the CJC and covers the dogs and handlers while in the community. We also have a county policy that covers the program. What kind are you looking for?
 
5.  GH Andrea
 FLA Four Legged Advocates is covered under a separate liability insurance for just that reason. Although I do not receive a salary, I am technically employed by FLA FLA and thus not considered volunteering anymore. I would talk to your local insurance provider and see if they have an underwriter willing to write the policy. I will be honest though, the first underwriting company did not want to write it. So, just dont give up!
 
 
I'm interested in learning more about how therapy dogs can be used in the child abuse prevention field. Any thoughts or resources?
 
1.  Glenna
 There is a book called Teaching Empathy which is very detailed about using dogs to work with families exposed to violence in a therapeutic setting. It will help you set up a progrma that concentrates on teaching family members how to more effectively communicate with each other. I am sorry I do not have the book in front of me now but I think I bought it off the Karen Pryor clicker training website. This is one of the most helpful books I have ever purchased and it will give you a blueprint to set up the type of program youa re envisioning.
 
2.  Deborah Dobson
 You might want to visit the Gabriel's Angels website for more info. They are in both Phoenix and Tucson, AZ.
 
3.  Curtis
 If you have victims you are dealing with the a dog program would work awesome. One option is to look into therapy dog programs in your area. Schools may let you take dogs there if that is where you have your prevention work.
 
4.  GH Andrea
 If you are speaking to prevention specifically, I can tell you that we use our canine partners in presentations in the community, schools, etc. Granted it is mostly describing our program, where the dogs accompany the victims through the process though. I would say it could be beneficial as a mascot of sorts, to grab attention and be used as a walking billboard for your cause. But I would have to admit, that using for prevention purposes only, would be confusing to the community as to ok why the dog?
 
 
I am a retired police officer with family violence investigation experience. I am currently participaing in pet therapy visits to hospitals, etc. What process would you suggest to begin a program like yours here. I am also on the Board for the local Women's Center for Nonviloence.
 
1.  Curtis
 The first thing I would do is look start talking to people to see what the interest and acceptance level is and then send me an e-mail with your address so I can send you everything we did to start our program.
 
2.  GH Andrea
 Whether you want to incorporate, become a 501(c)3 or not you need to have something. You also need to look into liability insurance. If you continue as an individual and are strictly volunteering, you may be covered (or can be) by a national therapy dog programs insurance. It is difficult to describe how to completely start a program in a simple paragraph, but this is the basic guidelines to follow. You may want to simply start at your Womens Centerget it going there (public approval) then continue on. (Depending on your area and relationships with those in the field.)
 
3.  GH Andrea
 I would say that you are in the PERFECT position to start a similar program. You have a therapy dog (if not, get him certified as one), have the experience and have the connections needed. First you need to decide how you would like to see the dogs usedin a therapeutic setting, court process, etc. If you are interested in the court side, talk with your local law enforcement, state attorneys office, etc. Once you have their approval, set a meeting with the Chief Judge and explain your program, etc to himher. They may not be able to publically like your program, but they ultimately are the ones that can deny a therapy dog access to the courtroom. You need to look at the business side as well.
 
 
I'm interested in learning about the training and certification process and how you got local law enforcement and human services on board. I am also wondering how long you stay involved with a child through or after the process, and if this is fully a volunteer effort or if there is funding for such a program. Thank you.
 
1.  Anne Ciemnecki
 I work with wonderful, progressive police departments and it was very difficult to get them to agree to have the dog in the station. (The chiefs agreed.) I persisted--one officer at a time. Once they saw the benefit from it, they were believers. Although they would not admit it, I think she relieves stress and provides respite for the officers after the calls. I always take her by the officers when the call is over to say Thank you and they get to play with the dog. BTW, Thank you is not something the officers hear very often! A warm, wagging tail is a relieves compasion fatigue.
 
2.  Joyce Schaum
 You and your dog have to pass a screening to become a therapy dog team. Check websites: Delta Society & Therapy Dog International. My therapy dog and I are in a prosecutor's office (victim witness unit). Our prosecutor made it known to law enforcement and our CAC that we are available for forensic interviews. We are available to the child from the interview (if requested by law enforcement) throughout the criminal justice process (trial prep, trial, sentencing, and any post-conviction issues). We are also available if the child wants to visit later. I got the dog for $50 from the humane society, County govt pays for vet bills and liability insurance, some training, and Delta Society membership. Minimal expense really. jschaum@ccg.carr.org
 
3.  Celeste Walsen
 We use facility service dogs from accredited service dog nonprofits in our work; these organizations provide all the training for the dog's handlers as well as providing a mature, fully trained dog. With our dogs, the child has the dog available during the forensic interview, the defense interview, meetings with the prosecutor and victim advocate,and also during courtroom testimony (if allowed by the individual judge).
 
4.  Deborah Dobson
 Getting community partners is fairly easy and you can involve them in the tracking process to monitor the effectiveness of the program. I would recommend following a child for at least 1 year. Locating funding, especially in this economy, is more of a challenge though!
 
5.  Curtis
 We let the child decide how long and how much they want the dog to be involved with them. There is a bond built in a short amount of time with the child and the dog and we do not want to interfere with that bond. Our program is done completely by volunteers and any funding needed is provided by donations from businesses in the community, usually very little funding needed.
 
6.  Curtis
 Well we put the program together then presented it to all the entities involved with the CJC, we did not get one argument or concern. We have two evaluations; the first one looks at the dogs personality and then provide guidance on what training we feel that the dog needs, usually obedience and socialization, the second evaluation is to determine if the dog is ready to work in the program. At the final evaluation we do a five minute mock interview with the dog to see how they react, because they CANNOT be a distraction during the interview. We provide each child with a business card that has the dogs picture and name on it as well as contact numbers for the CJC and the handler.
 
7.  GH Andrea
 We have found because this is a new concept (although the idea has been around forever, just not in the cjs) it is difficult to receive complete funding specifically for the use of the dogs. However, we have been able to receive various grants from corporations, etc that appreciate our work. We have found that it is primarily volunteerism that keeps the canine portion going. (We now pay personally for the financial responsibilities for our canine partners, and willingly do so. We also work closely with our vets for discounteddonated services whenever possible.)
 
8.  GH Andrea
 Sherry, there is currently no certification process for canines in the criminal justice system. However you can train your dog for as a therapy dog and receive a certification from several national therapy dog programs. Then you would need to add training for your specific needs and program. We are typically involved with the children from disclosure (or anytime after that in the process) until the court procedures. However we stay involved however long they need our assistance as advocates. (This may include assistance in finding counseling, etc.)
 
 
Good morning, just had a question regarding a child's response to a service animal / therapy dog. Do children have a preference or a different response depending on which type of dog? Such as a small dog, compared to a large dog? I work in a hospital in Fresno, and we have volunteers that bring in therapy dogs for the patients. The patients really seem to enjoy all types of dogs, from very small dogs all the way to great danes. It seems like a great resource to utilize and gets a very positive response. Thanks, Jon Southerland CSU-Fresno
 
1.  Deborah Dobson
 I have seen large male teens who were intimidated by a small energetic dog and a petite teen girl who preferred working with a Pit Bull.
 
2.  Curtis
 I have not noticed anything of that nature. Of course we only have two dogs currently working in our program, all the kids see is that its a dog and a friendsize doesnt matter.
 
3.  GH Andrea
 That is a good question and one we get a lot. Because we use career changed Seeing Eye dogs, ours are all big dogs. (Labs, Retrievers, Collies) I do agree whole heartedly that ANY dog breed can be perfect for therapy. However working the court system, I feel as if larger breeds (aka not lapdogs) make a better companionagain, for this purpose. Even with our 6 dogs, the children love all the dogs and dont seem to care which dog breed is with them. Honestly, for those children that get to meet several of our dogs, they tend to have a favorite based on personality, not breedyet still love them all! They receive the same love, support and lack of questioning from all the dogs and that is truly the important factor.
 
 
I am a therapist in a non-profit agency that offers therapy to children ages 3-17 who have been sexually abused and/or have been sexually reactive. What are the dynamics affected by a dog in therapy for this population?
 
1.  GH Andrea
 I saw in counseling, the children were more apt to open up and talk (sometimes mostly to the dog), both individually and in groups (and in the court process as well). Just the pure act of being able to pet and love on them, while talking about their abuse, feelings, etc. proved very beneficial and helpful. I also suggested, to those with pets at home, that they could talk and confide in their pets.
 
2.  Curtis
 It depends totally on the child, from what I have seen. When they get older, teenagers, they act like they are too tough for the dog. If you watch them pretty soon they are petting the dog, my guess is they sometimes are not even aware they are doing it.
 
3.  GH Andrea
 Karen before starting FLA Four Legged Advocates I was a sexual assault counselor for teens. We were not only advocates, but also counselors in both individual and group settings. It was quite beneficial! (So much so I opened a non-profit for victims of sex crime utilizing canine partners and we expanded to now 6 dogs.) What I would like to point out is that the dogs stay with their advocate partners at all times. They never go home, etc. with the victims.
 
 
I am a therapist in a non-profit agency that offers therapy to children ages 3-17 who have been sexually abused or who are sexually reactive. Are therapy dogs the same as pet assissted therapy? What training would be recommended for the dog and for the therapist? Are trainers available in our region, Northeast GA, and what is the aproximate cost? Must the owner be with the dog at all times or can individual therapists work with the same dog? What consent documentation is required for a parent or guardian to grant permision for their child to participate? What type of liability insurance is necessary when a therapy dog is utilized?
 
1.  Curtis
 If you will send me your telephone number I will call you. There are a lot of great questions here that need to be answered.
 
2.  GH Andrea
 I would personally suggest that the owner stay with the dog, due to liability, but that is a decision your agency would need to ultimately make. If you are under the same roof and with liability insurance you may decide this not to be the decision, but just remember liability (unfortunately) is important and lack thereof can jeopardize the future of the program. All of our clients sign a liability waiver specific to dogs, and we have never had a familyclient have any problems with this. Our organization has liability insurance through our insurance provider. But you must find an underwriter that is willing to write a policy based on the use of the dogs but I will say this is a MUST!
 
3.  GH Andrea
 I would suggest for you to get the dog(s) trained under a national therapy dog program. There are trainers available nationwide through those programs. The cost would vary, but I believe to be minimal (especially when you think about the benefit). Each program has their specific requirements, but I know must require the dogs to be a least 2 years of age.
 
4.  GH Andrea
 I saw in counseling, the children were more apt to open up and talk (sometimes mostly to the dog), both individually and in groups (and in the court process as well). Just the pure act of being able to pet and love on them, while talking about their abuse, feelings, etc. proved very beneficial and helpful. I also suggested, to those with pets at home, that they could talk and confide in their pets.
 
5.  GH Andrea
 Karen before starting FLA Four Legged Advocates I was a sexual assault counselor for teens. We were not only advocates, but also counselors in both individual and group settings. It was quite beneficial! (So much so I opened a non-profit for victims of sex crime utilizing canine partners and we expanded to now 6 dogs.) What I would like to point out is that the dogs stay with their advocate partners at all times. They never go home, etc. with the victims.
 
 
What criteria/guidelines do you follow when determining if using the dog is appropriate for each individual child?
 
1.  Cynthia Gevedon
 If you have a child that is hyperactive, has developmental delays andor history of self mutilation (cutting, etc.), does that change your assessment of deciding if using a dog would be appropriate?
 
2.  Curtis
 When the family comes to the center we ask permission from the child and the parent if the dog can be involved during the process (no allergies or fears). We let them make the decision on if the dog is involved, we DO NOT force the dog on them that would just add more anxiety to the child.
 
3.  Deborah Dobson
 There are a number of screening processes available to qualify a dog's temperament as a therapy dog or a dog who would be working with kids. The main things you look for is non aggression and a positive response to people of all kinds.
 
4.  GH Andrea
 All of the dogs that we use are great with working with children that is the most important guideline to us, always. As for which dog for which child, some of that is luck of the drawl; while other is based on the child and the dogs personalities. Our dogs have varying personalities just like people do. One likes groups and greeting larger numbers, while another tends to love little ones over teens, and vice versa. But they enjoy working with all kids and the kids love all the dogs. They receive the same love, support and lack of questioning from all the dogs and that is truly the important factor.
 
 
Has anyone had issues with being sued based on clients being allergic to the dog?
 
1.  Curtis
 We make sure there are not medical or fear issues with a dog when the family comes in, so no.
 
2.  Diane
 We have used our service dog for two years and have never had a problem with children being allergic. We always inform families ahead of time that we have the dog and ask if they want to interact with him.
 
3.  GH Andrea
 We have actually never had a client that has been allergic. But we do absolutely have liability insurance specific to the use of the dogs. Unfortunately people can sue for anything these days, which is why I suggest to EVERYONE that is thinking about using dogs to have liability insurance.
 
 
Amongst victims of all ages and of varying crimes, which population, using therapy dogs, has appeared to be most effective?
 
1.  Curtis
 It just depends on the child. Children that we thought would not want the dog take the dog with them. Children that we thought the dog would help the most usually does not turn out that way. However, the one most amazing thing that we have seen is that the dog will decide who needs them the most and it may not be the child. We have seen that the people taking it the hardest is a parent or older sibling so the dog will stay close to them so they are available to be petted.
 
2.  Nancy Oliver
 What training or testing do the dogs get? I have two TDI (therapy dog international) dogs and I had to take a test with each dog for TDI certification.
 
3.  GH Andrea
 We at FLA Four Legged Advocates, primarily work with victims of sex crimes. However I can say that the majority of our victims are under the age of 13. However I do not know if that is luck or because of the benefit of the dogs. We have worked with adults as well, and while it is absolutely still a benefit, I feel like it is more helpful for the children. Because they are less trusting automatically (especially after an assault) and are also less likely to ask andor be able to seek assistance for themselves. Other than domestic violence, I feel like sexual assault victims benefit the most from the love and unconditional support of the dogs because of this crime being one of such a personal nature.
 
 
Do any of the children become too attached to the dogs and get upset when the time comes to part with the animal? If so, how is the situation handled?
 
1.  Celeste Walsen
 We tell the children from the beginning that Molly is a courthouse dog and that she works here at the courthouse. They can see her when they come in, but she has to stay here to help other children. Sometimes victims return to see the dogs later, after their case is completed, which is fine. Yesterday an adult developmentally delayed victim told us that he was planning to take courthouse dog Ellie out for a hamburger someday; hopefully he will be satisfied instead with just walking her around the halls here.
 
2.  GH Andrea
 However, the biggest thing for me is when that child testifies in court. We try, if at all possible, for the child to sit alone on the stand, with us nearby. This is for multiple reasons, but most importantly because that child then knows that heshe has done this on their own! At this point, the child realizes that THEY have done it, and have the ability to overcome these situations alone. They walk out a survivor and they did it on their own. That being said, Squiggly still receives Christmas cards every year. :)
 
3.  GH Andrea
 We start the relationship with an underlining understanding that the dogs stay with us. This happens simply by explaining our program, and what we can offer for them and their families. Since our dogs never go home, etc. with the victims there is always a type of separation when they leave our company. The goal is to help that child go from victim to survivor, and a part of that is getting the able to rely on themselves for support as well.
 
 
While these dogs are refered to as therapy dogs, are they certified with either Therapy Dogs International or Delta Society?
 
1.  Curtis
 We consider our dogs to be comfort dogs and they are only used at the CJC. We have two evaluations that the dogs go through in order to be a part of the program. Our evaluations are very similar to Therapy Dog International, however they were designed our needs at the center so they are specific to this type of work.
 
2.  GH Andrea
 Lorraine that is a good question. The dogs that we utilize are service dogs, and were training by a Seeing Eye dog school, so their training was a bit different. But both of those therapy dog programs are great. I know that many others that utilize therapy dogs go through one of those programs. Some people that refer to dogs as therapy and service dogs do not understand the requirements for both. I always suggest to anyone that is referring to their dog as a therapy dog, have gone through some sort of training via TDI, Delta or a similar group due to their long standing history. Thank you for asking that question.
 
 
How long is your training program for the dog? Are you paid or is this purely volunteering with the dog?
 
1.  Curtis
 Depends on the dog. The dogs that come to our program are basically family pets that we evaluate and suggest training they need to be a part of the program. It is then up to them to get that training, we assist as needed, if they want to be a volunteer. And yes this whole program is all volunteers.
 
2.  GH Andrea
 Our dogs are career changed seeing eye dogs, so they have completed a 2 year program before joining our program. Then we continue to train and retrain them for our purposes. But there are numerous therapy dog programs available to you.
 
 
How can we work with the Chief Judges in order to get approval for this program in our county? Did you get any resistance from judges or defense attorney in the past?
 
1.  Curtis
 We have not worked with the Judges yet to get the dogs in court because there has not been the need. We presented the program to the prosecuting attorney and he loved it and so far there has not been one objection from any defense attorney or Judge. I know that there are programs across the country that use dogs in the court so I believe that a president has been set that it is an accepted practice. Check out Court House Dogs there is a lot of good information there
 
2.  GH Andrea
 Honestly, the jury usually does not even know there is a dog in the court room. Which is the idea - we are only there for the child and not as a parade of any kind. But be prepared - the defense does not like this idea as a general rule because the child tends to feel stronger and is more apt to give a good testimony. (Which I must say, is not our #1 priority the victim isbut it is nice for that to be a good side effect)
 
3.  GH Andrea
 I have a service dog and therefore some of the laws are a little different. Where this has been nice is that we have been able to prove to other the benefit of utilizing the canine partners in the court room with the child victims. It has been overwhelmingly effective! We have however had defense attorneys (in the beginning) question our use of the dogs. I can say that we were never asked to leave with the dogs. Most of their arguments were not actually dog related but more so that the dog would sway the jury, tell the child what to say, etc. (Which I can attest that our dogs have never done any of the previous.)
 
4.  Celeste Walsen
 We find that the thing that sells the program is the opportunity for judges to meet a well-trained dog and to see for themselves that there will be no disruption or distraction during court proceedings. Most people have never had the chance to meet a well-trained dog, and thus have in mind the wrong idea of what it would be like to have a dog involved in the criminal justice system.
 
 
How would you compare the use of “therapy dogs” & volunteer handlers to “courthouse dogs” such as those used in WA State and elsewhere? In WA, we’ve had great success with the courthouse dogs program (these are facility/service dogs, many trained through Canine Companions for Independence) and believe the greater amount of consistent training, the fact that the handler is not a “volunteer,” and the longer time these dogs are available makes this a better alternative.
 
1.  Curtis
 The way are program works is the dogs are dropped off at the CJC and the handler leaves. The dogs just hang out until its time to go to work. That takes the volunteer out of the equation, as far as the dog goes. However, our center is pretty much staffed by just volunteers anyway. I could not agree more that the more consistent training the dog has the better off they are, that could be why we only have two dogs in our program. One of the dogs belong to me and the other one belongs to an obedience trainer.
 
2.  GH Andrea
 All of our volunteers are Designated Victim Advocates through the Florida Attorney Generals office, and therefore have undergone extensive training and education as such. So they are not your traditional volunteers, they are just unpaid. Our dogs have undergone extensive training as well. I would say that the programs are similar in the fact that we are there to assist and help the victims. However my understanding is that Courthouse Dogs only operates in the courthouse, whereas we can go elsewhere. In my opinion, they are both valuable programs.
 
3.  GH Andrea
 I am remotely familiar with Courthouse Dogs in WA. I do believe it too is a great program. I am a little concerned with how a dog can be a facility/service dog, since a service dog is a federally protected dog that is providing a specific service to an individual. So it cannot be a service dog to a facility. But that is a legal question for an ADA attorney. I would be very careful taking a dog into a courtroom and calling it a service dog for a facility. I would want to check out the legalities before potentially getting the dog removed from the courtroom and thus causing potential further trauma to a victim.
 
 
Do you ever work with victims/survivors of sex trafficking or CSEC through your programs? If so, do you find therapy dogs to be equally as effective with them as with victims of other forms of sexual assault and abuse?
 
1.  Curtis
 I have not personally. However, the program is set up to work with individuals that have been victimized in one way or another and the dog does not care what that was. The dog senses when someone is struggling in one way or another so they go stand next to them, lay on their lap or they are just close by and available to be petted. My dog Bruno has been a life safer for me when I have a bad day at the office he hangs out with me I pet him and things just seem to get better.
 
2.  GH Andrea
 Honestly, I have not personally worked with victims of trafficking. However, my opinion would be yes, it would be just as affective. My opinion on why it would be is the personal nature of any type of sex crime.
 
 
Since registered therapy dogs are not tested for safety around children by national registration bodies such as Delta Society, what steps do you take to assure the well-being of vulnerable child victims when they are in contact with pet therapy dogs?
 
1.  Curtis
 There are no guarantees especially when working with animals. If proper testing and evaluations are done you can limit a possible accident. If you watch a dog long enough you will know the potential of himher biting or snapping at someone. If you see any indication of that even being possible then that dog should not be a part of the program period there is no debate on that point.
 
2.  GH Andrea
 Our dogs are kept up-to-date on all shots and medications, and always kept clean and maintained. All of our dogs have been acclimated to working around children since they were a puppy, as well as socialized around other dogs and animals. They are always under the care and supervision of the victim advocate partner, and thus never left unattended with a victim or family member. We have never had any issues with this. Unfortunately, due to this type issue, we also carry liability insurance and our clients sign a waiver specific to the use of the dogs. But again, it has always been a positive interaction.
 
 
We are considering implementing therapy dogs in working with victims of child sex abuse. Are there any differences in how to approach this with victims of sex abuse vs. physical abuse?
 
1.  Curtis
 In my opinion I would say no. The point of the program is to provide comfort for victims and that is why dogs are so great because that comfort is provided by just petting them. The dogs in our program take commands from anyone that gives them and when you are a victim one thing that is stolen from you is power. Now imagine youre a child that has been victimized in one way or another and you tell a dog to sit and he does WOW now you have something back that has been stolen.
 
2.  GH Andrea
 As a program, we primarily work with victims of sex crimes. However, my education and experiences have taught me that child victims of physical abuse tend to act out more physically. Therefore, honestly the difference to me would actually be more in protecting the canine. I think it would absolutely be effective for them as well. They need the same unconditionally support and love that a dog can supply. They too have been harmed by someone they loved, trusted, etc. The dogs are great at helping to build that bridge of trust between the child and the adults involvedwhich as you know, is important for numerous reasons (even outside any court system).
 
 
detective how did you get past the liablity issues with your department and did you have to write a protocol for the use of the dog
 
1.  Curtis
 When the idea was first presented to me I knew who I would have to get the ok from in order to implement the program; Sheriff, Chiefs of Police, other cops, and the one I feared the most was the County Attorney, you know how they are on liability. So we completely designed the program, including the policy and procedures that the program would be governed by. The first person we presented to was the County Attorney and there was not one question from him at all and he said, looks great do it. We received the same reaction from every individual and entity that uses our CJC. Plus we carry an extra insurance policy that assists with the liability. Since I volunteer my time at the center the department has no liability because Bruno is mine.
 
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