Law Talk with Jude Keatley | Court dog therapy

Law Talk with Jude Keatley | Court dog therapy

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Six-year-old black Labrador, Winston, is specially trained by Guide Dogs WA to support victims of crime, witnesses to crime and other court users in the Children’s Court of Western Australia in Perth.

For many years, when our office first opened, our miniature dachshund, Lily, would accompany me to work.

She loved a belly rub and was a genuinely calming influence on the distressed clients visiting the office.

In October 2023, the Melbourne Registry of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia introduced a Court Therapy Dog called “Poppy.”

Court proceedings and the court environment often exacerbate physical and emotional distress for the participants.

Poppy was able to assist litigants and children who attended the Court by bringing a sense of normalcy to the Court environment and providing a calming source of touch.

Clients of the Court who were participating in ongoing Court proceedings indicated that they would like to be able to request the support of a Court Therapy Dog at subsequent Court appearances.

As a result of Poppy’s success, the program has extended to the Hobart Registry of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia with the introduction of Zoey, who was professionally trained by Therapy Dogs NSW.

Hopefully, the program will eventually extend to Western Australia, and the litigants at the Family Court of WA will be able to enjoy the calming presence of Therapy Dog in circumstances where a calming presence is sorely needed.

Jude Keatley is a solicitor with JK Legal.