Judge Douglas R. Beach and Leigh Joy Carson are pleased to announce the CHAMPions for Kids program through which a courtroom dog (currently Magnum) will be available to accompany a child who will be testifying or being interviewed in court in a court in a case pending in the St. Louis County Family Court. The dog with wait with the child in the Vulnerable Witness Room or in the hall and go with the child into the courtroom or chambers.
The courtroom dog is specially trained to relieve the anxiety of a child who will be questioned in court.
The request for a courtroom dog must be made by the Guardian ad Litem and approved by the judge in the case.
The trial in which the dog is requested to participate should be scheduled three weeks out and the availability of the dog is not assured until availability has been confirmed with Carol Mestemacher (phone number (618-406-8592). The family court judges will have access to Magnum’s Google calendar.
CHAMPions for Kids in provided by CHAMP Support Dogs and is not a Court-based program, so the availability of A courthouse dog cannot be guaranteed.
Courtroom dogs have long been in use in St. Louis County Circuit Court in criminal cases and in the juvenile court in St. Louis County. The presence of courtroom dogs have been known to be helpful to child witnesses for some time. In the 18th century, the use of dogs to provide support to patients was clearly established and the benefits included reducing anxiety and increasing speech and memory functions as well as producing heightened mental clarity.
Courtroom dogs are specially trained to be quiet, unobtrusive and emotionally available to the child witness. The dogs are trained to lay down, sit or stand next to the witness for an extended period of time. The dogs are also trained not to engage in any sort of behavior that would distract the witness or the other people in the court room. In order to make the presence of a courtroom dog the most effective at supporting a child witness, the dog and the witness should have an opportunity to interact before the court appearance by the child.
A courtroom dog is not required in every case where a child is testifying or being interviewed by the judge. The use of a dog should be reserved for those cases where the child truly needs the extra support.
For further intermission, please see www.courthousedogs.org.