One place you don’t expect to find a dog is in court. However, some American canines have a different service position. According to Embrace Pet Insurance, 47 dogs have been trained in 21 states while witnesses testify. These canines assist people who have been victims of violent crimes, sexual assault, or who have to face their perpetrator. Courthouse dogs aren’t the same as other therapy dogs. They must meet many requirements before being allowed in the courtroom. The dogs must remain quiet and well behaved, sitting next to the witness for the length of the testimony and not distract the jurors. Additionally, dogs are trained not to react during emotional testimony that involves yelling or other things that may create chaos in the courtroom. The handlers for these dogs are typically an agency contracted by the justice system and can not say anything to dogs when they are with someone who is testifying or needs comfort. Using dogs in court is a new practice, so the court systems are extra cautious when bringing in dogs. If a dog is in the courtroom, the jury is reminded not to draw any conclusions from the dog’s presence. Many defense attorneys don’t want the dogs in the courtrooms because they feel like it sways the jury. However, many people who support dogs in courtrooms feel less distracting than someone holding a blanket or other comfort item.
Across the pond
In Occitainie France, courtroom dogs are also used. One of them is a black Labrador named Lol. He has been working in Cahors since 2019. According to Connexion France, Jean-Thibault Daniel is part of the Handi’chiens and feels that “Having a friendly, empathetic dog by their side makes all the difference.” Lol reacts when he offers some affection if one of the people testifying shows extreme emotion, helping them finish their testimony. Lol is the only dog in the French court systems. A prosecutor named Frederic Almendros was the one who could use therapy dogs for stressful situations during legal proceedings. Lol was certainly up for the challenge; so far, he has helped almost a hundred people. As his career in the French courtrooms continues he will undoubtedly help countless others.
Gold star dog
Lol has also received an award for his exceptional work. France Victimes awarded him was the Coup de Coeur medal. Additionally, Lol has been a part of several high-profile cases, including victim’s rights, at the European Parliament in 2019. The famous canine has also been to the European Parliament. It was a seminar about the benefits of having dogs like him in courtrooms. Even President Marcon was curious, asking numerous questions about how he behaves. Since having dogs in the courtroom is a newer concept, the prosecutor who first brought Lol into the courtroom wrote a book about his story. His story will hopefully inspire France to embrace the idea of dogs in courtrooms.
Just another day at work
On June 21rst, The BBC published an article about Lol’s part in the French legal system, Being a lawyer is a serious occupation, however when Lol is walking through the court, many come out of their offices to pet him. His presence in court was the work of Frederic Almendros, who read about another dog in Seattle, Washington was doing the same type of work. So far, Lol has been a tremendous asset. Almendros examines each case to determine whether the dog’s presence would be an asset to the witness. One of the saddest cases was when Lol stood next to an aging couple who experienced an armed home invasion. They were only able to speak to police officers with Lol by their side.
Another group of people Lol helps are victims of domestic assault. Alexia Mesthe heads the local chapter of France Victims. The organization works with victims of domestic and sexual assault. Lol has been trained to recognize high emotions and offer comfort throughout legal proceedings. Lol works in an area of France where major offenses aren’t expected. Since it was primarily abused and assault victims, they felt that his presence would help with court proceedings. However, one family lawyer needed to persuade many others to give the idea a try. It’s worked so well that other courts in France, including The Palais de Justice in France, have brought Lol in as emotional support in other cases. Soon, twenty different courts will begin adding dogs to their rosters. The next step for Lol is for him to start working with violent criminals. The courts are hoping his presence will help them stay away from crimes that have become repeat offenses. Alemedros feels that Lol is up for the job. As he says, ” “If anyone can turn a repeat offender, it’s Lol.”
Having a dog around in day-to-day situations adds a sense of calm to someone’s day. If we feel sad or lonely, walking a dog or playing with them is the best therapy. Many dogs provide happiness in these everyday moments and help in some of the most stressful moments of a person’s life. Dogs like Lol and others add another dimension to the ever-increasing list of therapy a dog can provide. Even though having a dog in court may seem distracting or potentially adding more legal issues because of bad behavior, they disprove these stereotypes. Victims of child abuse or someone who has been through a highly traumatizing experience need to help put the person away who committed the act. However, it’s challenging not to break down on the stand when you’ve undergone extensive trauma. A courtroom dog provides an element of emotional support that the best advocate or lawyer can not. It’s because a dog never asks questions and wants to be helpful to humans. A dog’s heart is vast, and having them in this capacity will hopefully continue to grow over the years.