To study the use of dogs in court supporting vulnerable victims and witnesses giving evidence

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To study the use of dogs in court supporting vulnerable victims and witnesses giving evidence featured image

Going to court is one of the most stressful experiences that someone can go through. In telling their story over and over again, people can re-traumatise and suffer terrible emotional and physical stress while others can disengage totally. In my work as Victims Engagement Coordinator at the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP), I see this trauma every day. The justice system is continually working to make the court experience more trauma sensitive.


Studies have long shown the physiological and psychological benefits of interacting with dogs. I am a dog lover and trainer and I have worked with my own dogs in hospital and school programs. In 2017 I began researching the use of dogs to provide support to people in legal settings.


I found no programs in Australia using dogs in a legal setting but my research led me to the great work of Courthouse Dogs Foundation in the United states of America. From this, I developed and ran a twelve week pilot program at the OPP. Due to the overwhelming feedback we were receiving from victims, witnesses, solicitors and social workers, the program was extended in 2018 to two days per week.


To take our program to the next level of having a full time program and also to be able to assist other agencies keen to consider adopting a program, I needed to know more about how dogs could help to facilitate the justice process. And so my Churchill Fellowship journey began.

Please download my Fellowship Report above to read my findings and recommendations for Australia.


Julie Morrison

Julie Morrison


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