Therapy Dogs Help out in the Courtroom [SLIDE SHOW]

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By: Gina Pitisci
April 18, 2013

Tallahassee, Fla. -- The thought of testifying in court is a stressful experience for adults, and can be even more stressful for kids.

A local program is helping to change that. Today some very special canines were sworn-in at the Leon County Courthouse as part of the Courthouse Therapy Dog Program.

"There's really nothing more encouraging than a cold nose and a wagging tail," Jim and Patty Gladden, Owners of "Daisy", Therapy Dog, said.

Former FSU football coach, Jim Gladden and his wife Patty proudly cheered on their dog Daisy as she and 12 other dogs and handlers were recognized by the presiding judge, James Hankinson for their participation in the Courthouse Dog Therapy Program.

"They've been here since 2007, however, it hasn't been formally recognized by the court and this is the largest swearing-in in the nation," Stephanie Perkins, Program Coordinator, TMH Animal Therapy, said.

The therapy dog teams provided by TMH support children testifying as victims in violent crimes, assist children participating in dependency court proceedings, and in certain instances, help adults too. This is all at no cost to the second judicial circuit.

"Having that comfort and support when they are in this grown up world and it's just such a concrete way that we can see the good these dogs do," Bobbie Jo Finer, Owner of "Honey Girl", Therapy Dog, said.

Studies have shown that by lowering stress levels, people tend to give more accurate information while testifying in court.

"It allows them emotional support and comfort that they wouldn't get otherwise. Dogs are unconditionally loving, they accept you for who you are and they're there for you to release your stress and worries," Perkins said.

To date, the therapy dog teams have partiicipated in over 50 criminal court events and provided support to kids in about 120 dependency court dockets.

If you are interested in finding out more information about the Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare Animal Therapy Programs or to see if your dog might qualify, call (850)606-6117 or click HERE

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