Should you let Sleeping Dogs Lie?
Each fall an unusual group of conference attendees gather at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bellevue. This furry, tail-wagging group of conference participants and their human handlers are attending the International Courthouse Dogs® Conference sponsored by the Courthouse Dogs Foundation. The annual conference is a three day gathering of professionals and trained canines who provide compassionate support to child and adult victims and witnesses. The trained canines are courthouse facility dogs that provide calm support to victims and witnesses during high stress situations like court proceedings, forensic medical exams, and witness interviews. Canine facility dogs can also provide support to child victims when they report abuse and during therapy, helping them open up when they have to talk about abuse and traumatic events.
Funding from the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy (OCVA) helps fund the costs of care and supplies for courthouse facility dogs through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Child Advocacy Center (CAC) Initiative grant.
OCVA currently provides funding that helps support the following canines:
- Louie VI, Facility Dog at Connections, A Center for Healthy Families (Gray Harbor County)
- Skipper, Facility Dog at Partners with Families and Children (Spokane County)
- Hank, Facility Dog at SAGE Child & Family Advocacy Center (Chelan & Douglas Counties)
- Two Facility Dogs at the Arthur D. Curtis Children’s Justice Center (Clark County)
- Astro, Facility Dog at Monarch Children’s Justice and Advocacy Center (Thurston and Mason Counties)
Question: Should you let sleeping dogs lie?
Answer: Yes, when they are courthouse facility dogs providing comfort and support. These working dogs provide support by sitting or lying next to victims and witnesses. They are socialized to be able to provide calm companionship in legal settings.
Dogs laying while enjoying the 2019 International Courthouse Dogs Conference.
- The presence of a courthouse facility dog can lower blood pressure and heart rate (Courthouse Dogs Foundation).
- Courthouse facility dogs spend most of their time working quietly but they need to have excellent physical fitness to be able to have a long work life and be up to the stamina their jobs require.
- The terms “courthouse dog” and “facility dog” are used for canines trained to work in a legal setting. These dogs are not service dogs or emotional support dogs, who are trained to support a specific individual.
- Courthouse facility dogs and their handlers also provide support to victims, survivors, and communities after traumatic events, mass violence, and mass shootings. A group of canines from Washington State went to Las Vegas, NV after the mass shooting in 2017.
- Handlers can include victim advocates, forensic interviewers, detectives, prosecuting attorneys, Guardians Ad Litem, therapists, and other professionals who work in the legal field. They receive special training to handle and care for the dog.
- There are approximately 17 trained courthouse and facility dogs throughout Washington State, and 240 working across the U.S.
- These canines are well loved and supported by the programs, handlers, and communities. The dogs also have trading cards.
A thank you note from a child that received support from Daze, a Courthouse Dog.