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Julie

Julie Morrison

Year of Award: 2018 Award State: Victoria Animals > General
Legal > General
To study the use of dogs in court supporting vulnerable victims and witnesses giving evidence - USA, Canada
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Recommendations:

My key recommendations are as follows;

  1. Agencies in Australia looking to implement a Court Dog or Justice Dog Program should follow the best practice model which states that:

    - The dog enhances the fact finding process and is not a distraction. The dog must provide support in such a way that it is able to reduce the stress levels of the person it is with and so help them with a better recall of the facts.

    - The dog is handled by someone in the legal profession e.g. a prosecutor, victims advocate, counselor or police officer. This ensures that the person understands the legal process and also the potential risk of vicarious trauma.

    - The dog is professionally trained and is a graduate of a not for profit accredited assistance dog school. The breeding and training programs of these schools will produce a dog whose behaviours are highly reliable and predictable in the courtroom environment.

  2. Agencies working with a court dog should spend time with related agencies e.g. the courts, defence, police etc. discussing the role of the dog and the process for using the dog. The dog should be viewed as helping to facilitate the process and not just supporting the victim.

  3. A template for formal pre-trial motion (or request for approval to use the dog) needs to be developed by the dog’s agency. This will include the dog’s resume and how relationship between the victim and the dog will help facilitate the process.

  4. The agency should develop a resume for the dog which is used in pre-trial motions, on the agency’s website and in any promotional materials about the program.

  5. When the dog is used in a court room in a jury trial, the agency must discuss with the court the best and most practical ways to ensure the jury will not see or be distracted by the dog. This may include removing the jury when the dog is brought in and taken out.

  6. The handler should keep a diary of any comments made by the court about the behaviour, impact or presence of the dog. This can be important in the event of an appeal by defence based on the presence of the dog.

  7. A job description should be developed for the dog that lists all the possible working areas for the dog and prioritises these. Handlers need to communicate this and all stakeholders must understand that the dog may not able to meet all requests.

Keywords: Court/justice facility dog, assistance dog, therapy dog, victim/witness, handler, agency, pre-trial motion, forensic interview, crisis response, grand jury

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