Public Areas

In public areas, it’s important to keep the dog at your side and under your control at all times. The dog should be wearing a vest so people know it has a job to do. Because some people might not want a dog near them for a variety of reasons, it’s important to be aware of this and not to allow the dog to make anyone uncomfortable.

Keeping your dog near you will also enable you to keep it safe from other dogs. 

Courthouse facility dog Camry, trained by Canine Companions for Independence, works in family court in Marion County, Ohio.

People who like dogs

People who like dogs will often want to come over and say hello. Take this opportunity to explain why the dog is there, and to promote the idea that the dog is available for everyone. Hand out trading cards so people will be reminded later about how your dog helps others.

This is Molly’s trading card:

When people withdraw from the dog

If people withdraw from the dog, reassure them that the dog is friendly, and explain the dog’s role. This sometimes encourages them to relax and approach you. However, if they keep their distance from the dog, be sure to keep the dog away from them.

If anyone seems hesitant but interested, you can ask the dog to lie down. This makes the dog less threatening, and might enable people to feel safe enough to come over and greet the dog.

Making a difference

You never know when a little bit of extra effort on your part can make a big difference in people’s lives. After a long day of presentations in a State Attorney’s office, Jeeter and I headed for the hotel. As we walked down the courthouse hallway, we saw a woman and her two adult children seated on a bench, looking agitated and angry. As we passed them, the young man asked me about Jeeter. Within moments, all three family members were petting Jeeter and enjoying watching him perform his tricks. The mom explained that they had been having a terrible day, and the three of them had been arguing.

While this was going on, I glanced up and saw a deputy sheriff looking at us intently. When it was clear that everyone felt better, I continued on my way out. As I walked passed the sheriff, he stopped me and said, “Now I’m a believer.” He explained that he had heard the family arguing around the corner, and when he heard me speaking to them, he had hurried over, concerned for my safety. He was surprised to see us having a good time, when moments earlier he had been anticipating making an arrest. Ellen O’Neill-Stephens

Dogs in the Courthouse

This video is an introduction to what facility dogs are doing in King County, Washington. It’s the winner of a 2009 Washington State Bar Association video contest on the theme of “Justice for All.”

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