As the number of cases steadily increases, so too does the need for comfort dogs. Several years ago, former Chief Judge Fred Lauten issued Administrative Order No. 2014-26, which allowed for the use of K-9th Circuit Program therapy dogs in Ninth Circuit courtrooms. Soon after, Section 92.55(4) of the Florida Statute enabled the Court to establish appropriate conditions when taking the testimony of a child, allowing for the use of a therapy or facility dog that has been evaluated and registered according to national standards.
Since then, these canines have become a common sight in the many different courthouses across the Circuit. These dogs provide comfort to often-traumatized witnesses as they give their testimony in a courtroom, which is an intimidating task for any person, much less a child.
The Ninth Circuit's K-9th program partners with Companions for Courage, a nonprofit organization made up entirely of volunteers and their highly trained canines. These dogs have been rigorously evaluated and are labeled "bomb proof": they do not react to loud noises, sudden movement, or other distractions. Their focus is to be a Companion to their person and nothing else.
The Companions for Courage serve the Fifth, Ninth, and Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Courts of Florida. As demand increases in each Circuit, the Companions have happily welcomed three new comfort dogs and their handlers to the team.
This week, Benni (a small terrier mix), Major (a German shepherd), and Summer (a black lab) toured the Juvenile Courthouse so that the dogs could get used to the scents and atmosphere of the new building.
We are excited to see the new Companions in action, and are proud of the unprecedented success of this partnership.