“Having Kobe (dog) at court this morning was incredible. The young victim was extremely anxious…she wouldn’t communicate at all with the legal team. From the moment Kobe walked into the room you could see her stress levels drop and she spoke clearly and confidently to give her evidence. She said she couldn’t have done it without the dog.” – PACT Support Volunteer
Introducing our NEW Pilot Program:
Child Witness Support Dogs
1. Who is behind this program?
The Child Witness Support Dogs pilot program is a joint partnership between PACT and Guide Dogs Queensland.
2. Where is the pilot running?
The trial is now running in the Brisbane District Court with a handful of carefully selected dogs.
Kobe, Elton and Evie are the three loveable Labradors who have been chosen as our canine “dream team” for the pilot program.
Once the program is successfully completed, our vision is to expand the program to other courts throughout Queensland, with many more dogs trained and court-approved to support more children.
3. How will dogs in court help child victims and witnesses?
Giving evidence can be a daunting experience, especially for children and victims of sexual abuse or violent crimes. Support dogs play an invaluable role in stress-relief, comfort and support.
Dogs provide non-judgmental affection which can help witnesses feel more relaxed. Evidence proves they have calming effects, including lowering heart rate and improving mental clarity, which has the added benefit of a better quality of evidence.
Having a support dog present when the child gives evidence can significantly reduce their anxiety, making court days less stressful for victims, witnesses and their families.
Through this program, we hope to increase a child victim’s potential for joy on one of the most stressful days of their life.
Who can resist feeling better with a smiling, doggie companion?
4. When is the dog with the child victim/witness?
Support dogs may be present during two key stages:
1. In the waiting room
Children can wait for many hours inside the court building until they are called to give evidence, which can increase their anxiety. Having a support dog in the waiting room with them can do wonders to lift spirits and keep young minds distracted and entertained, replacing stress with the joy of a canine companion.
2. When giving pre-recorded evidence
Despite many months or years of preparing for their day in court, even the most outwardly stoic person can fall apart when publicly reliving what happened to them. Giving evidence can be intimidating and emotionally draining for anyone, let alone a child. This is where having a support dog sit with them when they give evidence can make a big difference to the child’s wellbeing.
4. How are the dogs chosen/trained?
The dogs we use are carefully selected by Guide Dogs QLD for their friendly personality and their ability to stay calm and well behaved while in the court building. They are well trained to specifically act as a calming presence to someone in distress.
When their “work uniform” vest is on, they know they have a job to do. The dogs will not disrupt court proceedings. They stay by the side of the victim or witness while they give evidence, calmly resting their head on the child’s leg. The dog is positioned to be out of sight of the recording cameras.
Kobe, Child Witness Support Dog