EUGENE, Ore.-- Lane County's first therapy dog that can accompany at-risk children to court dates was sworn in Thursday afternoon.
Cooper is the first of several dogs involved in a program from CASA Lane County, an organization that advocates for neglected and abused children in the foster system. According to the organization, going to court to observe or testify can be an emotional experience for children who have experienced abuse.
"We're thinking about children who are coming from a situation that was often very scary, to something that is also scary if they have to face someone, and here they have a dog," said CASA Lane County executive director Heather Murphy.
Cooper, a yellow lab, will be the first of several dogs that will be available to calm these children when they visit the courtroom. At first, the therapy dogs will stay in the lobby. Once people are acclimated to the concept, dogs will be able to accompany the children into the courtroom when a judge deems it needed.
According to Murphy, these court dates can have a considerable bearing on a child's future, and alleviating anxiety at any step in the process can improve outcomes.
"So many people are dog lovers and it just clicks with them instantly. Of course, that's going to calm a situation. Attention is going to get off of this, over to this beautiful dog," she said.
The program is being organized in collaboration with volunteer therapy dog group FETCH. While therapy dogs are often excited to see new people, the courtroom demands dogs that will not distract from proceedings.
Handlers attend a mock court appearance to see if the environment will be a good fit for their dog.
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