Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Christmas In July : Helping Kids in Court
This was featured in the HABRI Newsletter from People Magazine
07/13/2016 AT 11:51 AM ET
Testifying in court can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you are a child.
To help young abuse victims feel safe and strong on the stand, Ninth Judicial Court of Florida started the Orange County K-9th Circuit Program. This program matches children with therapy dogs, who keep them comfortable during testimony, reports News 13.
One of those dogs is Karl, a 5-year-old deaf boxer, who is an expert at bringing courage to the courtroom. Karl is perfect for the job, since he isn't bothered by the loud noises and chaos of the courthouse. The sweet and serene canine, wearing his uniform vest, walks the child up to the stand and then sits alongside the boy or girl until their testimony is complete.
“Most of them won't testify, won't go through a deposition, if they don't have a dog beside them,” Karl's owner and trainer Hart-Rittenhouse told the station.
Karl offer a sense of protection that is important to many children, especially when they are facing their abuser in a public place.
“It makes me feel really good that we can do this and help,” Hart-Rittenhouse added.
After facing their fears, kids don't have to say goodbye to Karl. Hart-Rittenhouse makes sure that the pup is available to meet and comfort young testifiers for as long as they need.
“We'll be there as long as the child wants Karl to stay in their life,” Hart-Rittenhouse said. “He's helped a lot of children.”
Karl isn't the only one bringing calm to the courtroom. He is one of six gentle therapy dogs who provided support in hospitals and courthouses through Companions of Courage.