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Austin, Texas Children’s Advocacy Center Woodstock.

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Presentation on theme: "Austin, Texas Children’s Advocacy Center Woodstock."— Presentation transcript:

1 Austin, Texas Children’s Advocacy Center Woodstock

2 AAT in the Medical/SANE Exam Ask the child if the animal and handler can be present Ask the child if the animal and handler can be present Sight-barrier between the handler and the child Sight-barrier between the handler and the child Consult with prosecuting attorney and medical staff Consult with prosecuting attorney and medical staff

3 AAT in Therapy For group and individual therapy For group and individual therapy Helps the child to express feelings Helps the child to express feelings It is okay for the child to project feelings to the therapy animal It is okay for the child to project feelings to the therapy animal Conduct during a therapy session may be questioned during trial, including subpoenaing the therapist and records Conduct during a therapy session may be questioned during trial, including subpoenaing the therapist and records

4 AAT in Therapy ObjectionsResponses The presence of the handler broke the confidentiality of the therapist-patient relationship and, therefore, the defense is entitled to all the confidential records and notes from the therapy sessions. Check confidentiality law for a disclosure (mandated reporting). A child’s session with a therapist is likely not covered by privilege and the presence of the handler is not an issue.

5 AAT in Therapy ObjectionsResponses The presence of the therapy animal was used as a bartering tool to coerce the child to a false disclosure in order to pet the dog. Compare the child’s initial disclosure to the forensic interview and then to the therapy sessions.

6 Pookie the therapy cat Therapy Examples: Children’s Advocacy Center Jackson, MS

7 No! Help! Boxing ring The child Pookie The perpetrator The Power of Pookie

8 Buffalo, New York Lee Gross Anthone CAC

9 Midland, Texas Midland Rape Crisis and CAC Gracie at work! Rudy

10 Houston, Texas Children’s Assessment Center Meet Missy, Merle & Nora

11 How Merle is helping Young boy was physically and sexually abused, with pervasive emotional neglect (pets also abused) Young boy was physically and sexually abused, with pervasive emotional neglect (pets also abused) Foster homes and residential facilities failed him Foster homes and residential facilities failed him Relative placement rejected him as a bad kid Relative placement rejected him as a bad kid But Merle helped the boy to maintain attachment and improve socially, emotionally, cognitively and psychologically But Merle helped the boy to maintain attachment and improve socially, emotionally, cognitively and psychologically Created a poster board of Merle’s photos in between the boy’s hands Created a poster board of Merle’s photos in between the boy’s hands

12 Merle is safe in his hands

13 Dallas CAC Mark, 8-year-old boy sexually abused by dad Mark, 8-year-old boy sexually abused by dad Unable to bond with therapist, no progress in therapy for weeks Unable to bond with therapist, no progress in therapy for weeks Mark developed a bond with Keeper, laid down next to Keeper, lifted his ear, and proceeded to tell the dog about the abuse Mark developed a bond with Keeper, laid down next to Keeper, lifted his ear, and proceeded to tell the dog about the abuse Mark later asked if Keeper had bad dreams about the abuse Mark later asked if Keeper had bad dreams about the abuse Keeper – Delta Society dog

14 AAT in Court Preparation Eases tension Eases tension Assists with preparation Assists with preparation Touring the courtroom Touring the courtroom Safety and comfort Safety and comfort Hoss, Alliance for Children (Fort Worth, TX)

15 AAT in Court Preparation BenefitsBenefits Can relax the child and provide a sense of safety which may transfer to the prosecutor handling the case.Can relax the child and provide a sense of safety which may transfer to the prosecutor handling the case. ConcernsConcerns Be sure not to let the child believe that a “good performance” on the witness stand is contingent on having the therapy animal available for pre-trial court preparation. Be sure not to let the child believe that a “good performance” on the witness stand is contingent on having the therapy animal available for pre-trial court preparation.

16 Court Preparation Examples: Alliance for Children, Tarrant County, Texas Isabelle helps with the Tarrant County Kids In Court Program Isabelle helps with the Tarrant County Kids In Court Program Helped a 9 year old girl get ready for court Helped a 9 year old girl get ready for court The girl was shy, but warmed up especially after finding Isabelle’s ticklish spot The girl was shy, but warmed up especially after finding Isabelle’s ticklish spot Nan told Isabelle’s story about secrets Nan told Isabelle’s story about secrets The girl then disclosed to Isabelle more than she previously had about her abuse The girl then disclosed to Isabelle more than she previously had about her abuse

17 Tooele County, Utah Children’s Justice Center

18 Palm Beach County, Florida State’s Attorneys Office Three dogs (Jake, Chloe & Morgan) help children through depositions and to prepare for court

19 Harris County District Attorney: Paw and Order Unit

20 AAT in the Courtroom Approval from the prosecutor and judgeApproval from the prosecutor and judge Motion in LimineMotion in Limine Therapy animals assist with effective, efficient, and thorough testimonyTherapy animals assist with effective, efficient, and thorough testimony Feelings of securityFeelings of security Placement of the therapy animalPlacement of the therapy animal

21 Support Person Laws 48 States that allow the court to consider a support person:48 States that allow the court to consider a support person: AL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA,WV, WI, WYAL, AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA,WV, WI, WY FederalFederal American Samoa, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin IslandsAmerican Samoa, District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands Isabell & Keeper - Dallas CAC

22 Comfort Item Laws Arkansas (Arkansas (§ ) Florida (Florida (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 92.55) Guam (Code Ann. tit. 8, § 75.85)Guam (Code Ann. tit. 8, § 75.85) Court can take “special precautions”Court can take “special precautions” Missouri (MRS (4))Missouri (MRS (4)) Texas (Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art (3)(b)) Texas (Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art (3)(b))

23 Therapy Animal Laws Florida Florida Became law in 2011Became law in 2011 Upon motion for any child under 16, the court may allow a registered service or therapy animal in proceedings involving sexual assault.Upon motion for any child under 16, the court may allow a registered service or therapy animal in proceedings involving sexual assault. Considerations: age, interests of child, rights of parties, other relevant factors to facilitate testimony.Considerations: age, interests of child, rights of parties, other relevant factors to facilitate testimony. Animals must be evaluated/registered according to national standards.Animals must be evaluated/registered according to national standards.

24 AAT in the Courtroom ObjectionResponse The presence of the therapy animal and handler in the witness stand will be prejudicial to the defendant. Efforts to conceal therapy animal and move the handler as far from the witness stand, but allow for control. The therapy animal fulfills the role of support person and comfort item and is less suggestible than a concerned adult.

25 AAT in the Courtroom ObjectionResponse The presence of the therapy animal and handler in the witness stand conveys that the child is fragile and needing of protection against the defendant, which conveys a negative image on the defendant. Valid objection? Reach the legal level of “extreme prejudice” or “overly prejudicial”? The demeanor of the witness, whether strong or fragile during testimony, is not an objectionable factor since all witnesses react differently when testifying.

26 AAT in the Courtroom ObjectionResponse The defendant, defense attorney, or other courtroom observer is allergic to animals. Most allergies occur from touching an animal and then touching your eyes/face. The therapy animal is usually placed far enough away to avoid any allergies. Ask court to weigh the interests of the child in relation to the complained-of allergies.

27 Courtroom Example: Children’s Advocacy Center, Jackson, MS Vachss, a German Shepherd therapy dog, with a 7 year old child abuse victim before going to court dogs/vachss_transcript.html

28 Johnson County, Texas Children’s Advocacy Center Justin

29 CA vs. Spence 212 Cal.App.4th 478 (Cal.App. 4 Dist.) (2012) 10-yr-old child testified with an advocate and therapy dog 10-yr-old child testified with an advocate and therapy dog Defendant objected that the dog made the child look like more of a victim Defendant objected that the dog made the child look like more of a victim Therapy dog allowed as a procedural ruling to get to the truth and compared to a teddy bear Therapy dog allowed as a procedural ruling to get to the truth and compared to a teddy bear CA has a mandatory support person law (1 on the stand) and found the dog to not be a person CA has a mandatory support person law (1 on the stand) and found the dog to not be a person The dog was properly allowed and did not violate the 1 support person rule The dog was properly allowed and did not violate the 1 support person rule

30 Arapahoe County, CO

31 On Appeal

32 Other Legal Issues ConfidentialityConfidentiality Each state has laws on confidentiality and sharing information amongst MDT membersEach state has laws on confidentiality and sharing information amongst MDT members InsuranceInsurance Zoning and special permitsZoning and special permits Should not be an issue since the therapy animal should not reside at the CACShould not be an issue since the therapy animal should not reside at the CAC

33 Saying Goodbye Goodbye ceremony when child “graduates” or the therapy animal passes away Goodbye ceremony when child “graduates” or the therapy animal passes away

34 Questions? Download the manual at Contact me at


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