- Associated Press - Saturday, May 27, 2017

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) - A Louisiana juvenile court has introduced a therapy dog program to help children at court dealing with difficult family situations.

Judge C. Kerry Anderson in Beauregard Parish’s juvenile court heard a presentation given by a dog handler and decided to introduce the concept at the courthouse, the American Press reported (https://bit.ly/2qk6Bvf ).

“I thought it would be a wonderful way to help those children cope with what can be a very stressful and anxiety-filled day as they await their turn to be seen in the courtroom,” Anderson said.

The dog handler, Judy Bailey, and her dog Blue - a stray catahoula and Australian shepherd mix- recently came to the courthouse to interact with children as families and children waited for their day in court. She said some of the children didn’t even want to leave the court at the end of the day because they wanted to stay with the dog.

“To know that by just simply being there for them to pet and interact with, that Blue was able to make such a tough day better for these children made everything I have done to get him to this point worthwhile,” she said.

Bailey and the dog got certified as a therapy team last year and have been making appearances at nursing homes and hospitals. Blue is a stray that turned up at Bailey’s doorstep. She went with him to a few pet behavior classes, where many people remarked that he would make a great therapy dog.

The therapy dog program has also won praise from lawyers and others who frequent the courthouse. Trisha Casey, a children’s attorney with Acadiana Legal Services in Lake Charles, said that by interacting with the dog, children can turn their nervousness into excitement during what is a very difficult time.

“There is a lot of uncertainty for children in these procedures,” Casey said. “Some of them will have to speak before the judge and that can be extremely stressful and even frightening for some of them. I am very encouraged to see this type of program being introduced in a local courtroom, especially in a smaller, more rural area such as Beauregard Parish.”

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Information from: American Press, https://www.americanpress.com


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