Help Canines and Children Impacted by Cruelty Forge Comforting Bonds

Target: Celeste Walsen, Executive Director of Courthouse Dogs Foundation

Goal: Connect dogs rescued from abuse with programs that aid abused children.

Man’s best friend: dogs did not earn this moniker by coincidence. Scientific evidence and centuries of anecdotal evidence support the roles these animals play in comforting and calming people from all walks of life. Increasingly, the normally hard-nosed justice system has recognized the unique and beneficial role that canines play for stressed individuals. Courthouse facility dogs have aided thousands of vulnerable victims across the country, and their positive impact can grow exponentially.

Facility dogs populate a number of formal settings, including district attorney’s offices, child welfare agencies, and courtrooms. These specially trained canines typically interact with young children, many of whom are victims of severe abuse and neglect. For example, the dog may sit by the witness box as a child testifies against his or her alleged abuser. The child may hold the leash of the animal, take a moment to pet it, or simply be comforted by the dog’s presence during a time of great distress. Some critics object to the use of facility dogs, arguing the animal’s presence might unduly prejudice juries against a defendant. The animals, however, are specifically trained to remain quiet and non-intrusive during proceedings; each animal must pass rigorous training standards.

The number of jurisdictions permitting court facility dogs continues to grow, with Florida recently setting a statewide precedent. These programs are of immense aid to humans who have endured great pain, and they could be the same for animal survivors of abuse and neglect. Currently, most court facility dogs are bred and selected for this job. Yet rescue dogs hold equal potential in the socialization and training needed for these roles. In fact, dedicated volunteers currently train dogs rescued from cruel and abusive environments (dubbed court case dogs) to become aides and companions within the home.

Sign this petition and urge the Courthouse Dogs Foundation to marry the concept of court facility dogs and court case dogs so that all living beings enduring abuse and neglect can become strong survivors together.


Dear Dr. Walsen,

Your work has helped untold numbers of young children navigate the greatest challenges of their lives. The bond between a dog and a child is the stuff of memorable stories, cherished family anecdotes, and archetypes celebrated across the world. For every smile and measure of comfort a dog invokes in a child, the child can and does offer the same for the dog.

Consider these special bonds when you offer guidelines for dogs selected for facility training. Every day, vulnerable animals pass through the court system with their own histories of the most egregious cruelties. Court case dogs do not have to be cast aside. In fact, many undergo the same socialization and training programs as court facility dogs so that they may finally find a safe and loving environment to call home. These survivors have enormous potential to connect with young children who can understand them like no other.

Including court case dogs in your programs could be your greatest asset yet and your most lasting legacy. As you continue bringing this innovative program to more jurisdictions and more survivors, continue innovating this powerful tool to be its best.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Kin Jeng

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One Comment

  1. Gen Agustsson says:

    dogs are therapy to people who need help.

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