For the first time in a Canadian courtroom, a dog was allowed on the witness stand a couple of weeks ago to comfort a young girl who was testifying against her own father in a sexual assault case.
The girl’s father is charged with sexual assault with a weapon and forcible confinement involving the child and his wife.
Prosecutor Rosalind Greenwood knew recalling the alleged incidents of rape would be traumatic for the girl, and so she asked the judge to allow the ‘trauma dog’ to sit by the girl’s side while she testified.
The Alberta judge agreed to allow 4-year-old Hawk to comfort the girl.
Sgt. Brent Hutt, Hawk’s handler, said Hawk has provided comfort to numerous crime victims during the time the two have been together. Hawk is said to have a remarkable intuition when it comes to knowing who has been traumatized and is in need of comfort.
“I’ve seen him walk into a room, bypass people that he knows … and go to the victim and curl up with [them]. It blows people away,” he said.
Hawk will also accompany the girl’s young brother on the stand when it is his turn to testify. The dog will be there to provide a comforting influence by doing little more than putting his head in the lap of the witness.
“So he’ll be there with the witness when they’re testifying, just to be there to offer that support,” Hutt said, “There’s no science to it. He comes and he’s well trained, he’s obedient, and he sits and people pet him. It’s really that easy.”
This is a great idea, and it has clearly helped in this instance. We have tried to see if we have the same initiative here in the UK, but we couldn’t find any examples.
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