“Promoting Justice with Compassion”

Yesterday, I had lunch with a former colleague Ellen O’Neill-Stephens, who, along with Dr. Celeste Walsen DVM, is on a mission to “bring about a major change in how we meet the emotional needs of all involved in the criminal justice system.” This goal can be accomplished with courthouse dogs. Their Courthouse Dog webpage, located here, explains:

“Since 2003 courthouse dogs have provided comfort to sexually abused children while they undergo forensic interviews and testify in court. The dogs also assist drug court participants in their recovery, visit juveniles in detention facilities, greet jurors and lift the spirits of courthouse staff who often conduct their business in an adversarial setting.

“Courthouse dogs assist individuals with physical, psychological, or emotional trauma due to conduct; these dogs should be professionally trained assistance dogs from an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International. Each courthouse dog is handled by a criminal justice professional, such as a deputy prosecutor, a law enforcement officer, a victim advocate, or a forensic interviewer.

“The use of courthouse dogs can help bring about a major change in how we meet the emotional needs of all involved in the criminal justice system. The dog’s calming presence creates a more humane and efficient system that enables judges, lawyers, and staff to accomplish their work in a more positive and constructive manner.”

If a courthouse dog can alleviate trauma to even one child or one disabled person, what a terrific accomplishment. The Courthouse Dog website is packed with valuable information and worth a visit. For instance, it covers potential objections and legal issues that may be raised on appeal. Also, at the site, you can request a free DVD for criminal justice professions about the use of courthouse dogs. Contact information for both Ellen O’Neill-Stephens and Dr. Celeste Walsen can be found on the site.