Placid pooches to soothe victims and witnesses at Taree Court

Comforting canine: Anna Scene, Kerry Webb and Stephen Bromhead with Zoe the Labrador.
Comforting canine: Anna Scene, Kerry Webb and Stephen Bromhead with Zoe the Labrador.

Therapy dogs will soon be available at Taree Courthouse to support victims of crime and witnesses.

The introduction of comforting canines follows a nine-month trial of the service at Manly Courthouse, which proved a huge hit with hundreds of court users.

“As a former solicitor I know that attending court can be difficult and stressful but research has shown therapy dogs can have a soothing effect on victims and witnesses,” Member for Myall Lakes, Stephen Bromhead said.

“The specially-trained dogs are happy to interact with strangers and aren’t easily fazed, which is important in a fast-paced and emotionally charged court environment.”

Attorney General, Mark Speakman said he expects the placid pooches will also be popular with people working at the courts.

“During the pilot program in Manly, many lawyers, police and court staff found it a welcome distraction to pat a pooch in between cases,” Mr Speakman said.

Taree is one of 10 locations to introduce the Therapy Dog program. The other courthouses participating are Manly, Burwood, Campbelltown, Gosford, Goulburn, Lismore, Nowra, Orange and Sutherland.

Dedicated volunteers will visit Taree Courthouse with their dogs several mornings a week. At Manly, a variety of dogs have taken part in the program from a miniature poodle to a giant Bernese mountain dog.

“The therapy dog program is paws down one of the most popular programs trialled in NSW courts. But it wouldn’t exist without the dedicated volunteers who paws their busy schedules, giving up their time so court users can lap up the dogs’ non-judgmental support,” Mr Speakman said.

Therapy dogs are already regular visitors to hospitals and aged cares centres in NSW. They are quiet, screened for friendliness and temperament and are happy to interact with strangers.

At Taree Courthouse they will be available in foyers, waiting rooms, safe areas and witness rooms. Qualified therapy dog providers can find out more about applying to provide the service at tenders.nsw.gov.au between March 5-31.