Dogs are able to fulfill a wide variety of roles in the lives of people. Most commonly, they are great pets that bring joy and love to families all over the world. However, they can also be trained to perform highly specialized and important tasks. These include assisting the police with finding criminals and illegal substances and helping people with special needs cope with their challenges.
One interesting benefit that dogs can have is helping children feel more at ease in court. While this is a very specific role, it is one of great importance. Children who have to testify in court can be intimidated and unwilling to communicate, especially if the trial is for a violent or traumatizing crime.
Dogs like Merel from London, Ontario, are being brought in to help put children at ease while testifying. Merel is trained to move slowly and silently, simply performing comforting gestures like lying beside a child when instructed. This helps the child witness program develop a relationship with the child and get their testimony without stress.
Courts who use these dogs have voiced their support for increased funding for the program. It is a highly effective and simple measure that can provide numerous benefits to the children and the justice system.
Unfortunately, many areas are unable to have dogs like Merel assist them with child witnesses. This is because training programs like the one Merel underwent through Ontario’s National Service Dogs program can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Many donations are required in order for courts to offer programs that bring in these dogs.
Merel may be the first dog in Ontario to work at the child witness program in a courthouse, but hopefully she will be the first of many. These dogs are able not only to prevent stress and anxiety in the child witnesses, but also to facilitate smoother and more accurate trials. Public support for these programs will therefore benefit the children as well as everyone involved in these cases.