ACT Court Canine Support Program
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is excited to be involved in a pilot of a canine support program in the ACT Magistrates Court.
Modeled on the similar program in the NSW Local Court, the pilot will involve one of our Therapy Dogs named Quota, visiting the Magistrates Court with his handler for a few hours each week to engage with parties, witnesses and other people involved in court proceedings. The pilot began in February 2019 and will primarily focus on the Childrens Court and the remote witness suites
The ACT Chief Magistrate said:
“We are very pleased to partner with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT to offer this program in the ACT. The program will give court users the opportunity to engage with Therapy Dogs which can help reduce the anxiety that often accompanies court proceedings. Arrangements are in place to ensure that people who are afraid of or allergic to dogs, or who are concerned about contact with them, are not affected.”
The pilot has been extended for 12 months and, if successful, may become a permanent service for court users.
What is the ACT Court Canine Support Program?
For more than 30 years, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has been running a community service at no cost to clients called the Therapy Dog Program. The Therapy Dog Program provides Therapy Dogs to clients that need comfort and emotional support.
The ACT Court Canine Court Program is an initiative by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT in partnership with the ACT Courts and Tribunal which allows our Therapy Dogs to provide therapy services to court users in the ACT.
How do the Therapy Dogs help court users?
The Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Team and ACT Court Canine Support Program volunteers will be walking through the courthouses with the Therapy Dogs and spending time with anyone who may be anxious and in need of comfort.
Through this, we hope to make a person’s visit to a court less stressful and take the court user’s mind off things that they might be struggling with. The presence of the Therapy Dog can help to lower a person’s anxiety through stressful and confronting situations.
Are Therapy Dogs different from Guide Dogs?
Therapy Dogs and Guide Dogs have different roles in how they assist the community.
A working Guide Dog wears an easily recognisable Guide Dog harness. When Guide Dogs are wearing their harness, they are on duty and focused on guiding their handler and should not be patted or distracted.
However, a Therapy Dog is there to engage with people and respond to their needs. Therapy Dogs provide companionship and comfort - and they are happy to be patted!
Click here to download the Volunteer application form.