Canine Court Companion Program | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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Canine Court Companion Program

What is the Canine Court Companion Program?

The Canine Court Companion Program is a community based initiative by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT in partnership with NSW Government, Department of Justice (Victim Services).

What is the aim of the program?

Attending court can be a stressful and confronting event for many court users. As such the program aims to reduce the negative impact of court attendance by supporting victims of crime through the medium of a specially selected and trained Therapy Dog and Handler team.

Photo of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Canine Court Companion team

What are the benefits of a Canine Court Companion Therapy Dog?

Interacting with Therapy Dogs has been scientifically proven to lower heart rate, increase speech and memory function and heighten mental clarity. Therapy Dogs can also reduce anxiety, offer a pleasant distraction and provide non-judgemental support to those in need. In a courthouse environment emotions and stress are often at a high and victims of crime are at risk of being re-traumatised and left feeling vulnerable. Interacting with a Therapy Dog may reduce these feelings and improve the wellbeing of the individual. 

A recent evaluation of the CCCP found that 96% of engagements with CCCP Therapy Dog Teams were positive, with much anecdotal evidence supporting their presence having a calming and uplifting effect not only on court users, but also court professionals and volunteers, support networks, and family and friends of those attending court.

What does the program look like?

Our amazing Therapy Dog Teams attend nominated courthouses 4 mornings per week, 9am and 12pm to offer support and interact with court users and court staff with a specially selected Therapy Dog. 

Therapy Dog Teams offer support primarily in publicly accessible areas of the courthouse, including the foyer and safe room. Therapy Dog Teams may also receive special requests from police or court professionals to assist with individuals who are anxious and may benefit from spending time with a Therapy Dog.

Picture shows Therapy Dog, Finn being patted in Court

Where is the Canine Court Companion Program available?

Therapy Dog Teams are currently visiting courthouses in Manly, Gosford, Sutherland, Burwood, Campbelltown, Orange, Lismore, Goulburn and Wagga Wagga with more courts potentially rolling out in the future.

Ollie the Court Companion sitting outside Manly Courthouse

Are Therapy Dogs different from Guide Dogs?

Yes! Although they might looks similar, and both Therapy Dogs and Guide Dogs play important roles in assisting the community, they perform these roles in different ways.

Guide Dogs are easily identified by the Guide Dog harness they wear. When a Guide Dog is wearing a harness this means they are working hard assisting their handler to navigate the world. Guide Dogs should never be patted or distracted whilst they perform guiding work. Doing so can create an unsafe environment for both the Guide Dog handler and the Guide Dog.

Canine Court Companion Therapy Dogs however are there to be patted and to provide comfort and affection to those who would like their company.  Canine Court Companion Therapy Dogs wear an orange Therapy Dog vest with the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT logo.

Lorna, a Therapy Dog, with her Canine Court Companion vest

How can I apply for a Canine Court Companion Program?

If you would like to find out more about joining our amazing team of volunteers, please click here for our CCCP Information Booklet.

Please note that all applicants must read the CCCP Information Booklet in its entirety before applying!

To submit your application online please use the CCCP Application Form.

Alternatively, please send your Application and CCCP Information Booklet request to Naomi: pat [at] guidedogs.com.a