November 23, 2015 - 11:29 AM
PRINCE GEORGE - The Victims’ Services Branch of the Prince George RCMP has a new, friendly tool to help victims feel less anxious about testifying in court.
Max the therapy dog was a new addition to a Supreme Court jury trial to help a young witness in a violent assault case — a first visit of its kind in Northern B.C.
Before assisting the witness, Max underwent several hours of training through Pawsitive Horizons, a local therapy dog agency. Owner Kirby MacInnes simulated trial settings with children in an empty courtroom to help the dog get a sense of the environment.
One witness, a nine-year-old girl, had Max at her side while she delivered testimony and kept her company between court sessions. While waiting her return to the courtroom, the girl had Max do tricks, dressed him up and drew pictures of him, according to Cpl. Craig Douglass with the Prince George RCMP.
"The victim services therapy dog program that was introduced in our community two years ago has been a great success with victims and witnesses of crime as well as within the police detachment itself,” Douglass says in a media release. "The therapy dog K-9 crisis unit consisting of Max, the calm interview saavy court hound and Grimmus, the on-scene specialist, have blended into the Prince George detachment with ease, grace and enthusiasm."
Krista Levar, Max’s handler and coordinator for Prince George RCMP victims' services, introduced the dog to pretrial hearings earlier this year to help a young witness deliver testimony via closed-circuit television.
For more about therapy dogs and their introduction into the court setting, you can read Levar’s thesis here.
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— This story was updated at 3:33 p.m., Nov. 23, 2015 to remove the term 'courthouse dogs'.
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