Ellen O’Neill-Stephens JD, Founder and Policy Director
Ellen served as a deputy prosecuting attorney in Seattle, Washington for 26 years, retiring in November of 2011; she is a pioneer in the use of dogs to provide emotional support in the criminal justice system and the founder of Courthouse Dogs. Since 2003, she has promoted the use of highly trained assistance dogs to provide comfort to children and adults who are victims or witnesses of crimes and support juveniles and adults in mental health and drug courts. Ellen’s son, Sean, and his service dog, Jeeter, were the inspiration for the Courthouse Dogs Foundation. Ellen received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology, and was a juvenile probation officer before entering law school.
Celeste Walsen DVM, Executive Director
Celeste works with criminal justice facilities to teach staff members the practicalities of using highly trained dogs in victim/witness support programs. As Executive Director of Courthouse Dogs, Dr. Walsen is currently working to develop nationally recognized guidelines that will equip victim advocates, forensic interviewers, prosecuting attorneys, and other legal professionals to effectively employ dogs to provide support for vulnerable people of all ages. Dr. Walsen holds a BA in Psychology from the University of California Berkeley and a DVM from Louisiana State University.
Colleen Phelan, Communications Director
We are so delighted that Colleen Phelan, our new Communications Director, has increased our staff to three people! Colleen is a victim advocate in the Special Victims Unit at the Pima County Attorney’s office in Arizona and in 2012 partnered with courthouse facility dog Blake, who was trained by Assistance Dogs of the West. Last year Colleen received the Arizona Prosecuting Attorney’s Advisory Council’s Victim Advocate of the Year recognizing her for the great work she and Blake have done and is in high demand as a trainer for the National Victim Assistance Academy.
Since Colleen is go-getter, smart, and chatting with her is very entertaining, we decided to get her input for ways to obtain more financial support for our Foundation. Colleen came up with the brilliant idea of educating the world about the work we do through the Dogged Justice Podcast. She and animal behaviorist Dr. James Ha will be interviewing facility dog handlers from around the world so they can share their stories about what a positive difference their canine partners make by helping vulnerable people feel calmer and happy to see their dog when involved in the criminal justice system.
If you have photos and stories to share about your work and courthouse facility dog, contact her at email@example.com
Board of Directors
Carrie-Leigh Cloutier, President
Carrie-Leigh has been CEO of the Chaves County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Program for over thirty years. Chaves County CASA serves over 2500 abused and high-risk children every year in the following programs: Court Appointed Special Advocates, Supervised Visitation Center, Courthouse Dogs Program, Juvenile Court Advocacy, Alternative Education, Youth Leadership Program, Domestic Violence and Custody Advocacy, and Children’s Advocacy Centers and more. Carrie-Leigh is also a non-profit consultant, specializing in strategic planning and program evaluation. She loves travel, hiking with the dogs and teaching yoga.
Seth Fine, Secretary
Seth has served for 33 years as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Snohomish County Washington. That office was a pioneer in the use of courthouse dogs. Seth currently holds the rank of Assistant Chief Criminal Deputy and heads the Criminal Appellate Unit. Seth has briefed or argued 100 cases in the Washington Supreme Court, along with hundreds more in the Washington Court of Appeals. Seth is the principal author of two treatises on Washington criminal law: Criminal Law with Sentencing Forms, and the Washington Jury Instruction Handbook. He is also a member of the Washington Supreme Court Committee on Pattern Jury Instructions and was a former Chair of the Washington State Bar Association Disciplinary Board. He currently serves the Bar Association as a Disciplinary Hearing Officer. Seth lives in Everett, Washington with his wife Megan.
Mark Zahner, Director
Mark Zahner is a Chief Deputy District Attorney for the Stanislaus District Attorney's Office. Previously he was the Chief Executive Officer of the California District Attorneys Association. Mark was the Chief of Prosecutions at the California Office of Attorney General, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse. He worked at the Attorney General’s office for 17 years as a prosecutor. Mark became a prosecutor in 1989 with the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office where he dealt with everything from homicide to insurance fraud prosecutions. He was a frequent speaker with the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Units and the chief organizer and presenter of the four Attorney General Elder Abuse conferences that occurred between 2001 and 2007. He was a Criminal Law instructor for the California State University, Sacramento Academic Talent Search program. Mark has additionally been an instructor through the years for many different organizations and spoken at many venues. As a career prosecutor, Mark has long been familiar with a host of Victim/Witness issues, including the use of courthouse facility dogs. Mark is a 1988 graduate of the University of the Pacific Law School and attended California State University, Fresno as an undergraduate where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism. On the personal side, Mark and his family have many years of involvement with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) and he is pictured here with his son’s service dog, Keldon who passed in 2019. Additionally, while in high school, his daughter co-raised two dogs for CCI. Mark and his family remain committed to supporting the use of these wonderful dogs in all facets of assistance, including involvement with the justice system.
Tamara Martin, Director
Tamara Martin has spent over 35 years in the criminal justice system, having worked with both offenders and victims in providing services and assistance in the areas specific to the needs of the people she serves. With each position she has held she strives to create a space for accountability, rehabilitation, and trauma-focused resources and assistance. Tamara earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Auburn University at Montgomery. Tamara's professional career began in counseling and advocacy for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. Starting in 1992 and continuing for 21 years, Tamara was employed as a Probation Officer for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Following her retirement in 2013, she began the first courthouse facility dog program in Alabama. In 2014, Tamara was partnered with facility dog Willow, a graduate of Canine Companion. For years, Willow and Tamara were the only courthouse Facility Dog team in Alabama. Together, they assisted with cases throughout the state. Tamara and Willow were instrumental in starting HERO, Alabama's statewide facility dog program. HERO is the first statewide program in the country and has earned an outstanding reputation internationally.
Tamara is also a forensic interview specialist, where she uses her extensive training to perform forensic interviews of children who are crime victims or witnesses to crime, producing interviews that are legally sufficient for court admissibility. Over her 30+ years, Tamara has served on various State Task Forces all related to crimes against children, intimate partner violence, trafficking, and sexual assault, including specific Alabama Governor appointments. Tamara is also a presenter and trainer for law enforcement, prosecutors, advocates, and other disciplines relating to the protection of vulnerable and marginalized victims. She currently serves on the Alabama Domestic Violence Resource Council. Tamara is the handler for Facility Dog Yahini with the Alabama Office of Prosecution Services in Montgomery.
Maureen Watt, Treasurer
Maureen Watt brings more than 30 years’ experience in HR, Training, Organizational Development and Financial Services - helping others achieve what matters most. In October 2017, she retired from Sun Life Financial. Prior to that, Maureen worked extensively with Fortune 500/100 companies as well as non-profit and government agencies all over North America as a consultant for four global development firms, including Franklin Covey and a Chicago-based firm. Maureen is a former Academic Chair with a Community College and entrepreneur who started and managed a successful Training Development firm for many years.
Maureen holds a Guide Dog and Service Trainer Certificate under British Columbia’s new Guide and Service Dog legislation. An active volunteer, Maureen has worked with many organizations, including Victim Services, COPE Service Dogs, the University of British Columbia Okanagan B.A.R.K. program, and St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Programs.
Maureen has been married for 40 years to husband Richard, a retired member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In 1999 she rode more than 1300 km (600 miles) on horseback across three Prairie Provinces from Emerson Manitoba to Fort Macloud in Alberta as part of the RCMP’s 125th celebrations (150th anniversary in 2017) of the historic North West Mounted Police March West in 1874.
James Ha, PhD, CAAB
James has been extensively trained in the social behavior of mammals and birds, with a special focus on highly social species like domestic dogs. He received a Ph.D. in Zoology with a specialization in animal behavior from Colorado State University, and a professional credential as a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. For 25 years, Jim worked as a Research Professor in the Animal Behavior Program at the University of Washington. He currently continues to do what he enjoys most: teaching in his online UW Certificate in Applied Animal Behavior program and conducting research on complex social behavior and cognition of several animal species. He recently retired from his business in performing in-home evaluations and treatments of behavior issues in pets, but continues as a Consulting Behaviorist in advising on many such cases each year as well as consulting on behavior and welfare issues in the legal system. He currently consults on these issues with groups such as the Courthouse Dogs Foundation, Seattle Animal Shelter, the Seattle Parks Department, and Homeward Pets Adoption Shelter, as well as multiple private pet industry companies.
David Crenshaw, PhD, ABPP, RPT-S
David is Clinical Director of the Children's Home of Poughkeepsie, New York, and adjunct visiting assistant professor in the graduate clinical psychology program at Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a Board Certified Clinical Psychologist by the American Board of Professional Psychology, Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA), and Fellow of APA's Division of Child and Adolescent Psychology. He is also a Registered-Play Therapist-Supervisor (RPT-S) by the Association for Play Therapy. Dr. Crenshaw is a Past President of the New York Association for Play Therapy, and also the Hudson Valley Psychological Association, which honored him with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. He has written or edited 12 books on child aggression, trauma, grief, resilience, and over 50 book chapters and journal articles. His latest books are Play Therapy Interventions to Enhance Resilience co-edited with Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein and Termination Challenges in Child Psychotherapy co-written with Eliana Gil.
Al is the co-founder of The Harvey Institute, a training and consultation company whose mission is improving health care outcomes through integrating sexual health. For the past 21 years he has worked at the Chadwick Center for Children and Families at Rady Children’s Hospital, where he currently serves as the Lead Trainer under two federally funded grants designed to improve Trauma Informed care in Child Welfare and Mental Health systems across the United States. A Licensed Clinical Social Worker, he has worked for several decades in the field of trauma treatment. He serves as an adjunct faculty member at California State University, Long Beach as well as a faculty member of the San Diego Public Child Welfare Training Academy. He has served on the board of CAPSAC (California Professional Society on the Abuse of Children) and is a consultant and trainer for UCLA’s Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica, California. He is currently the co-chairperson of the Cultural Consortium for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.