Check out this NY Times article about the use of therapy dogs in the courtroom. They are being used to comfort someone testifying about their sexual assault. In the article, it tells of the dog Rosie who provided a girl some measure of comfort as she testified against her father about his rape of her. She would pause or delay her answers and the dog would sense her pain and nuzzle her.
Seems like a good thing! But wait, the defense doesn’t think so. Each time the dog comforts the child, the jury sees her distress more clearly and develops sympathy for the client. Does such a dog sway the court toward conviction? The defense worries that the girl might be under distress from lying and thus the dog might aid her to tell a better lie.
I’m sure that these dogs are providing a wonderful service that ought to be continued. Someone with a bright mind will figure out how to have the dog in the courtroom and yet shield the jury from seeing the dog do his or her work. And other bright minds will try to craft ways to eliminate the dogs and give the defense the upper hand again.
One response to “Do therapy dogs in the courtroom create an undue benefit for the prosecution?”
As if testifying about sexual abuse for a kid (or anyone really) isn’t hard enough…now the defense has to “object.” Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. I know we need the witnesses to provide testimony…but generally when a kid testifies about sexual assault, the jury is sympathetic. I don’t think that a golden retriever *REALLY* makes that much of a difference. It’s just a new tactic for the defense.
I tried to train my shih tzu to be a therapy dog, but she doesn’t want to SIT with anyone else. However, she does sense people’s pain. In fact, two days before my good friend had an emergency appendectomy, Maddy lied across my friend’s abdomen with her head down and she wouldn’t move. It was so strange at the time, but in retrospect, it made sense. (I could hire her out. She would be way cheaper than all those E.R. tests.)
Maddy can be a visitation dog at nursing homes. I’m trying to see what other “visitation” options available to my sweet, docile dog (who refuses to “stay”). Maybe I’ll have better results with the next dog. 🙂
Dogs are amazing. I am so glad they can offer support to people who are suffering, especially to children. I know that animals have been an amazing source of comfort to kids transitioning from foster care into adoptive home. The family “pet” is usually the first family member the kids accept as “theirs.”