Dog Helps Ease Stress in Court
A facility dog named Camry is helping relieve stress at Marion County Family Court.
“He kind of defuses any stress or tension up in the waiting areas with people that are waiting, down in our juvenile probation department,” Kathy Clark, Marion County Family Court program administrator and Camry’s handler, said.
Camry is watchful and attentive. He’s patient and effective.
“And that takes an awful lot of discipline because he’s just 2. Everything he wants to do right now is jump up and run around,” Clark said.
But instead he will lie around for hours at a time if needed.
“This way when a child is being interviewed or a court hearing is taking place, or there’s testimony he is not disrupted to the court,” Clark said.
Clark said Camry is trained to comfort kids and help put those who come before the court at ease.
“My first question is do you have a fear of dogs, do you have any allergies of dogs. And if that’s cleared, then I put him in this sit position where he does not move, and they come up and they pet him,” Clark said. “He can also shake hands with them. He can also do a command called visit. ‘Camry visit’ where he puts his head right in your lap, and he’ll keep it right there as long as I need him to and till I give him the command ‘Camry off. Good boy. Sit. Good boy,’” Clark said.
Besides providing comfort, Camry can also give children courage to speak out, whether they are on the witness stand or being interviewed during a custody dispute.
“I refer to him as our newest employee,” Marion County Family Court Judge Bob Fragale said.
Camry’s first job inside a courtroom setting is helping ease tension for these teens. They are part of Judge Bob Fragale’s juvenile reentry program.
“Anything we can do to help ease the experience of children going through our court system, I’m in favor of. It’s a very intimidating process,” Judge Fragale said.
Judge Fragale was all in favor of acquiring Camry through the non-profit Canine Companions for Independence. The national group provides free, trained dogs to those needing assistance. To get the professional, legal training, the group worked with Courthouse Dogs Foundation.
“We are told this is the first family court to have a dog placed,” Clark said.
But Camry’s not Ohio’s first dog placed in a legal setting. The Summit County prosecutor’s office has a facility dog named Avery, and since February 2012, Nanook has helped children who have come before the courts in Greene County.
Camry will join Avery and Nanook during the Ohio Judicial Conference in August. There judges will learn about the benefits of facility dogs to possibly use in their own courts.
There are currently 60 facility dogs in 32 states across the nation. In Ohio, Ross and Henry counties are currently on a waiting list to receive their own dogs for court use.