They say a dog is a man’s best friend, but for one young Canadian girl her trauma dog was more than that — he was the calming reassurance she needed to help her tell her story.
Testifying in court can be traumatic for anyone, let alone for an abused child. Sitting in a courtroom, away from their families, and sometimes with their abusers only meters away.
So a little comfort from trauma dogs like Caber in court can go a long way.
CBC News reports that the seven-year-old Labrador retriever Caber became the first dog to ever be allowed into a British Columbia courtroom last Friday.
Caber, a K9 trauma dog with the Delta Police Department, was brought into court to assist a child sexual assault victim testify at trial, making courtroom history in the province.
The girl, whose name can’t be released, was visibly comforted by the dog’s presence, bending down several times to pet Caber during her testimony.
She was also able to cuddle and play the trauma dog during breaks in the trial.
Caber’s handler, Kim Gramlich said the dog was clearly helping her with the stress of the her testimony and he “appeared to refocus and calm her”.
Ashley Hardy with the Zebra Child Protection Centre says that court dogs are able to connect emotionally with the children right away.
“The dogs can come into a room and know who’s feeling anxious, who has all these emotions and be able to walk up to that person and comfort them. When we may not be able to see that” she said.
The dog was allowed into the courtroom after Surrey Crown Counsel Winston Sayson filed a successful application to the court.
Mr Sayson wrote in a statement that the decision to allow Caber shows how the criminal justice system is able to “evolve and be innovating in accommodating children and vulnerable victims.”
“At this trial, Caber provided the unique kind of support that helped the child witness give a full and candid account of what happened to her,” Sayson said.
Allowing dogs into courtrooms seems to be a growing trend in Canada when dealing with child abuse cases, with the technique being used in Calgary and Edmonton also.
You can see more of Caber in this fascinating video posted by the Department of Justice Canada.