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Issued: Monday, 3 April 2017
Attorney General Mark Speakman and Liberal candidate for Manly James Griffin have announced Manly Local Court will be the first courthouse in NSW to trial the use of canine companions to support children and vulnerable victims as they navigate the justice system.
Mr Speakman said the six-month trial begins at Manly on Thursday, 27 April with two 'therapy dogs' lending a floppy ear and friendly paw to assist victims and reduce the stress and anxiety of appearing in court.
"We know court proceedings can be distressing and overwhelming, particularly for young children, which is why the NSW Government is piloting the use of companion animals in our courthouses," Mr Speakman said. "It's a wonderful initiative. The success of the trial here at Manly will determine whether the program will roll out across the state."
"Research shows having a dog to talk to and pat can calm people who are feeling scared and nervous, a phenomenon referred to as the 'pet effect'. Therapy dogs are used in courts across 25 states in the U.S. Here in Sydney, they regularly visit intensive care, spinal and burns units at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney Children's Hospital and Westmead Hospital.
The dogs for this trial will be supplied by Delta Dogs. General Manager Hollee James said, "We believe the presence of a dog in a courthouse will have significant benefits for victims, especially children, because pets have a way of making people feel happy, relaxed and at ease no matter how confronting the process might be."
The dogs will be located in public waiting areas as well as safe and remote witness rooms four mornings a week from 9am to 10.30am (excluding Wednesday).
Mr Griffin said, "The dogs will support and comfort adult and child victims and witnesses in public waiting areas before and after they give evidence to help them feel calm in court. If a victim or witness is particularly distressed, arrangements will be made for the dog to sit with them privately."