A dog’s day in court

shutterstock_233964235In a somewhat innovative move, Family Court Judge Jim James (Stark County, Ohio) has announced his plans to apply for a court dog from Canine Companions for Independence. Classified as a “facility dog”, the canine would be made available to both prosecution and defense teams to offer emotional support to people who are testifying in stressful cases.

Full disclosure: this is the court I work with as a Court-Appointed Special Guardian, representing the best interests of children who have been removed from their parents due to abuse or neglect. I’m so pleased that Judge James has decided to do this!

The dog is provided free of charge, although it may take as much as two years to get through the application and approval process. The only expense to the county is that they must hire a full-time dog handler with whom the dog will live, and must pay for food and medical costs for the dog.

Canine Companions for Independence, based in Santa Rosa, CA, breeds and raises dogs – primarily Labrador and Golden Retrievers – at their headquarters facility for 16 months, then puts the dog into one of their six training centers located nationwide to learn commands. Once fully trained, they work for two weeks with the prospective handler before being released to their new home.

I hope our County Commissioners are forward thinking enough to approve the Judge’s plan. Waiting with bait on my breath to see how this plays out.

Until next time,
Good day, and good dog!

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