Fri. Sep 20th, 2019

A Central Florida organization is bringing therapy animals into the courtroom to help children testify on the witness stand.”The child is here because something bad has happened in their life. They’re a victim in some way, shape or form,” Judge Robert Egan said.Egan runs the Orange-Osceola County Juvenile Court, where Companions for Courage works to help children get through testifying.The organization offers therapy animals to children testifying in civil and criminal court proceedings. “Having this program is invaluable for providing comfort to kids who are abused or neglected,” Joanne Rittenhouse said.Rittenhouse is the program’s coordinator.”There was a little girl, she knew that she was going to have to face the man who hurt her and she was terrified to walk into that courtroom,” Rittenhouse said.Thanks to one of the dogs, Karl, by her side, Rittenhouse said she was able to take the witness stand.”That empowered her to be able to hold her head up, walk into that courtroom, look at him while she was giving testimony and feel safe,” Rittenhouse said.Rittenhouse is part of an all-volunteer team who take 16 service dogs and one cat to almost every county court in Central Florida.”We will sit with the child until they’re ready to go in to testify,” Rittenhouse said.In Orange County, the children and animals bond in a special room at the juvenile courthouse. Companions for Courage fills the room with books, activities and more to help the children relax before going into court.Then the child and a volunteer hold a dual lead which allows the child to walk into court with their dog.Therapy dogs will sit at a child’s feet while they testify.Orange County was the first in Florida to adopt the use of therapy dogs in court.”Studies have shown that people who are comforted can actually give more accurate testimony as to what happened. So as far as the court process is concerned, the more accurate our record, the better job we will do,” Rittenhouse said.

A Central Florida organization is bringing therapy animals into the courtroom to help children testify on the witness stand.

“The child is here because something bad has happened in their life. They’re a victim in some way, shape or form,” Judge Robert Egan said.

Egan runs the Orange-Osceola County Juvenile Court, where Companions for Courage works to help children get through testifying.

The organization offers therapy animals to children testifying in civil and criminal court proceedings.

“Having this program is invaluable for providing comfort to kids who are abused or neglected,” Joanne Rittenhouse said.

Rittenhouse is the program’s coordinator.

“There was a little girl, she knew that she was going to have to face the man who hurt her and she was terrified to walk into that courtroom,” Rittenhouse said.

Thanks to one of the dogs, Karl, by her side, Rittenhouse said she was able to take the witness stand.

“That empowered her to be able to hold her head up, walk into that courtroom, look at him while she was giving testimony and feel safe,” Rittenhouse said.

Rittenhouse is part of an all-volunteer team who take 16 service dogs and one cat to almost every county court in Central Florida.

“We will sit with the child until they’re ready to go in to testify,” Rittenhouse said.

In Orange County, the children and animals bond in a special room at the juvenile courthouse.

Companions for Courage fills the room with books, activities and more to help the children relax before going into court.

Then the child and a volunteer hold a dual lead which allows the child to walk into court with their dog.

Therapy dogs will sit at a child’s feet while they testify.

Orange County was the first in Florida to adopt the use of therapy dogs in court.

“Studies

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