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LACASA Adopts Canine Advocate

Dog Canine Advocacy Program Seal

LACASA Center has something to bark about! We adopted a black Labrador to serve as a Court Advocacy Dog for our agency.

Our new friend is named Penny and she will serve as a source of support for child abuse victims who are receiving services through our Child Abuse Response Effort (CARE) and our Legal Advocacy Center.

Penny comes to us through Leader Dogs for the Blind. The agency generously donated Penny to LACASA following stringent leader-dog training at its Rochester, MI, facility.

We are working closely with the Canine Advocacy Program (CAP) of Novi, a nonprofit organization that provides extensive training for advocacy dog placements. The CAP group will collaborate with our staff to ensure that Penny has a successful transition into her new role.

Evidence demonstrates that court advocacy dogs help alleviate the anxiety children experience when involved in the criminal justice system. These advocate/therapy dogs provide comfort to sexually abused children while they undergo forensic interviews. They also offer a sense of security when victims of child abuse and domestic violence testify in court.

The head of LACASA’s Legal Advocacy Center, whose name is kept confidential, serves as the dog’s handler and primary caregiver. Penny “comes to work” on weekdays and goes home with her handler on nights and weekends.

Penny going to work

DRIVEN: Penny works on weekdays. During her off hours she plays, eats, sleeps and enjoys chauffeur-driven rides around town.

Penny’s introduction to LACASA will include various phases as she bonds with her new caretaker, adapts to her new “job,” and becomes familiar with her surroundings.

“We are the first child advocacy agency in Michigan to introduce this program,” said Bobette Schrandt, president & CEO of LACASA. “This is an exciting time for us and the children we serve.”

According to Schrandt, prosecutors and judges are finding that therapy dogs aid witness testimony by providing child victims with emotional support both in the witness room and in the courtroom.

“Success stories demonstrate that the use of courtroom canines provides victims with a more positive outcome and often is a life-changing experience,” Schrandt said.

“It is incredibly stressful for children when they undergo forensic interviews,” said Schrandt. “It is equally, if not more, traumatic when children must testify in a courtroom setting. By implementing this new program, our goal is to provide child victims with a source of comfort that helps reduce their anxiety.”

The use of advocacy/therapy dogs in legal proceedings for abuse victims has gained momentum globally over the past several years. Research shows that children and teens are more relaxed and forthcoming during the interview process when accompanied by a therapy dog.

“Another huge positive is that canine advocates indirectly help increase conviction rates of child abusers,” Schrandt said. “We want to ensure that children feel as comfortable as possible when they are interviewed and that they provide accurate courtroom testimony to secure criminal prosecutions.”

“The use of a therapy dog will bring about a major change in how we meet the emotional needs of abused children from our community,” said Schrandt. “We look forward to Penny being the official mascot of LACASA and the unofficial mascot at the Livingston County Courthouse.”

To learn more:

BoingyDog >>

Canine Advocacy Program >>

Courthouse Dogs Foundation >>

The Good Dog Foundation >>

Trauma Sensitive Courts >>

Video: Chocolate Lab Helps Out in Courtroom >>


LACASA Staff Insight

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