Online Disucssion: Using Therapy Dogs to Respond to Child Victims
On April 27, 2011, at 2 p.m. (eastern time), in commemoration of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), in coordination with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, will present a Web Forum discussion with Curtis Allen and Andrea Cardona on using therapy dogs to respond to child victims. Detective Allen of the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office in Utah is a member of the county’s Children’s Justice Center (CJC) multidisciplinary team. For the past 3 years, he has also managed CJC’s Healing Paws Program, which provides canine companions to comfort children who are victims of abuse before, during, and after they participate in justice-related interviews. Healing Paws is a unique program that trains dogs to accompany children into interviews without their handlers present, and Detective Allen created the standards by which dogs are evaluated before they are accepted into the program. Ms. Cardona is a sexual assault counselor for children and teens, and the founder of FLA Four Legged Advocates, Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides volunteer advocates and service dogs to assist child victims of sexual assault. Following her own sexual assault at age 17, Ms. Cardona found great comfort in the companionship of her dog, so she began taking her service dog with her when she accompanied victims to counseling sessions and trials. She discovered that the dog’s presence comforted the young people and eased their fears. Ms. Cardona’s methods have received national attention and have been replicated throughout the country with victims of all ages and of varying crimes.