Dogs in the criminal justice system: Consideration of facility and therapy dogs

Main Article Content

Elizabeth Spruin
Katarina Mozova


It is known that the criminal justice process is most often perceived as a negative experience by victims, witnesses, as well as defendants. Whilst measures have been put into place across the globe to improve their experiences, there is still much more which needs to be done, especially as the process can involve secondary victimisation of those participating in it and prolonged trauma. The current opinion piece centres on the use of trained dogs to help the experiences of criminal justice system users during active cases. Whilst this practice is mostly used in North America, hints at bringing varying types of dogs into the criminal justice system are visible elsewhere, too. With the criminal justice users in mind, it is key to establish, from the offset, the positives of such service, but also be very aware of its limitations and challenges, in order for the service delivering what it aims without causing a disruption to the criminal justice process or its users. This piece provides a theoretical and practical analysis of topics
surrounding the use of specially trained dogs to support criminal justice system users with the view of highlighting our lack of knowledge on the topic and practical challenges of this service.

Article Details

Paper reviews
Author Biography

Katarina Mozova, Canterbury Christ Church University

Lecturer in Policing
Head of Year 2 (Pre-service)
Canterbury Christ Church University


Barker, S.B., Barker, R.T., McCain, N.L. and Schubert, C.M. 2016. A randomized cross-over exploratory study of the effect of visiting therapy dogs on college student stress before final exams. A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People and Animals 29(1): 35-46.

Barker, S.B., Knisely, J.S., Schubert, C.M., Green, J.D. and Ameringer, S. 2015. The effect of an animal-assisted intervention on anxiety and pain in hospitalized children. A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People and Animals, 28 (1), 101-112.

Baun, M., Johnson, R. and McCabe, B. 2006. Human-Animal Interaction and Successful Aging. In Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy, 287-302, ed. A.H. Fine. USA: Elsevier.

Beckett, H., Warrington, C. 2015 Making justice work: experiences of criminal justice for children and young people affected by sexual exploitation as victims and witnesses. University of Bedfordshire

Berry, A., Borgi, M., Francia, N., Alleva, E. and Cirulli, F. 2013. Use of assistance and therapy dogs for children with autism spectrum disorders: A critical review of the current evidence. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 19(2): 73-80.

Bradley, P. 2014. Therapy dogs in the courtroom as advocates for child witnesses: An interpretive phenomenological analysis of judges' opinions, experiences, and rulings. Ph.D. thesis, Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Bradley, J. and Maldonado, N. 2013. Effects of a facility dog on student learning and learning environment. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Mid South Educational Research Association.

Browne, C, Stafford, K, and Fordham, R (2006) The use of scent-detection dogs. Irish Veterinary Journal, 59, 97 – 104.

Burd, K. 2013. The effects of facility animals in the courtroom on juror decision-making. Master’s thesis, Arizona State University.

Camp, M.M., 2001. The use of service dogs as an adaptive strategy: A qualitative study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55(5), pp.509-517.

Cavalli, C.M., Carballo, F., Dzik, M.V., Underwood, S. and Bentosela, M. 2017. Are animal-assisted activity dogs different from pet dogs? A comparison of their sociocognitive abilities. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 23, 76-81.

Cohen, C.R., 2013. Demeanor, Deception and Credibility in Witnesses. ABA Section of Litigation Section, 3, 23-35.

Carew-Lyons, A. 2016. Impact of dog visitation on a hospitalized child's mood. Ph.D. thesis, University of Massachusetts Boston.
Cooke, P. and Davies, G. 2001. Achieving best evidence from witnesses with learning disabilities: new guidance. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29(3), 84-87.

Connor, K. and Miller, J., 2000. Animal-assisted therapy: an in-depth look. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 19(3): 20-26.

Couling, K., 2017. Facilitating an animal-assisted intervention program: the risks and rewards of working with animals in helping and educational settings. Master’s Thesis. University of Alberta.
Courthouse Dogs Foundation (2018). Home. Available at: (Accessed 15 February 2018).

Crenshaw, D. A. and Stella, L. 2015. Court testimony: animal-assisted trauma-informed play therapy to help traumatized child and adolescent witnesses. In Play Therapy with Children and Adolescents in Crisis, 334-351, ed. N.B. Webb. London: The Guildford Press.

Cross, T.P. and Whitcomb, D. 2017. The practice of prosecuting child maltreatment: Results of an online survey of prosecutors. Child abuse & neglect, 69, 20-28.

Fine, A.H. and Mackintosh, T.K. 2016. Animal-assisted interventions: Entering a crossroads of explaining an instinctive bond under the scrutiny of scientific inquiry. In Encyclopaedia of mental health, 68-73, ed. H. S. Friedman. Oxford: Elsevier.

Fossum, J. 2013. The history of services dogs: How do they work? Presented at the National Centre for Victims of Crime National Conference, Phoenix, AZ.

Friedmann, E. 1995. The role of pets in enhancing human well-being: Physiological effects. In Human-animal interaction: Benefits and responsibilities of pet ownership, 33-54, ed. I. Robinson. Oxford: Elsevier.

Gazit, I., and Terkel, J. 2003. Explosives detection by sniffer dogs following strenuous physical activity. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 81: 149-161.

Glenk, L.M. 2017. Current perspectives on therapy dog welfare in animal-assisted interventions. Animals, 7(2),7-24.

Glenk, L. M., Kothgassner, O. D., Stetina, B. U., Palme, R., Kepplinger, B. and Baran, H. 2014. Salivary cortisol and behavior in therapy dogs during animal-assisted interventions: A pilot study. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 9(3), 98-106.

Gordon, N.J. and Fleisher, W.L. 2010. Effective interviewing and interrogation techniques. London: Academic Press.

Granger, B. and Kogan, L. 2006. Characteristics of Animal-Assisted Therapy/Activity in Specialized Settings. In Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy, 263-286, ed. A.H. Fine. USA: Elsevier.

Grimm, A. 2013. An examination of why permitting therapy dogs to assist child-victims when testifying during criminal trials should not be permitted. J. Gender Race & Just., 16: 263-292.

Hamlyn, B., Phelps, A., Turtle, J. and Sattar, G. 2004. A re special measures working? Evidence from surveys of vulnerable and intimidated witnesses. Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate. London: Home Office.

Haubenhofer, D.K. and Kirchengast, S. 2007. 'Dog Handlers' and Dogs' Emotional and Cortisol Secretion Responses Associated with Animal-Assisted Therapy Sessions. Society & Animals, 15(2): 127-150.

Himot, L., Gordon, T., Harrison, R. L. and de Chesnay, M. 2017. Canine partners in health care. In Nursing Research Using Case Studies: Qualitative Designs and Methods in Nursing, 145-154, ed. M. De Chaney. New York: Springer Publishing.

Hoffmann, A.O., Lee, A.H., Wertenauer, F., Ricken, R., Jansen, J.J., Gallinat, J. and Lang, U.E. 2009. Dog-assisted intervention significantly reduces anxiety in hospitalized patients with major depression. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 1(3): 145-148.

Huss, R.J. 2017. Legal and policy issues for animal assisted interventions with special populations. Applied Developmental Science, 21(3): 217-222.

Jalongo, M.R., Astorino, T. and Bomboy, N. 2004. Canine visitors: The influence of therapy dogs on young children's learning and well-being in classrooms and hospitals. Early Childhood Education Journal, 32(1): 9-16.

Jordon. J. 2013. From Victim to Survivor – and from Survivor to Victim: Reconceptualising the Survivor Journey. Sexual Abuse in Australia and New Zealand. 5(2): 48-56

Kaiser, M. 2015. Sit, stay, now beg for me: A look at the courthouse dogs program and the legal standard Pennsylvania should use to determine whether a dog can accompany a child on the witness stand. Villanova Law Review, 60: 343-382.

Krause-Parello, C.A., Levy, C., Holman, E. and Kolassa, J.E. 2018. Effects of VA Facility Dog on Hospitalized Veterans Seen by a Palliative Care Psychologist: An Innovative Approach to Impacting Stress Indicators. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine®, 35(1): 5-14.

LaFrance, C., Garcia, L.J. and Labreche, J. 2007. The effect of a therapy dog on the communication skills of an adult with aphasia. Journal of communication disorders, 40(3):.215-224.

Lassiter, G. D. and Meissner, C. A. 2010. Police interrogations and false confession: Current research, practice, and policy recommendations. USA: American Psychological Association.

Lorenzo, N., Wan, T. L., Harper, R. J., Hsu, Y.L., Chow, M., Rose, S. and Furton, K.G. 2003. Laboratory and field experiments used to identify Canis lupus var. familiaris active odor signature chemicals from drugs, explosives, and humans. Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 376: 1212-1224.

Lundqvist, M., Carlsson, P., Sjödahl, R., Theodorsson, E. and Levin, L.Å. 2017. Patient benefit of dog-assisted interventions in health care: a systematic review. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 17(1): 358-369.

Lutwack-Bloom, P., Wijewickrama, R. and Smith, B. 2005. Effects of pets versus people visits with nursing home residents. Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 44(3-4): 137-159.

Majić, T., Gutzmann H., Heinz A., Lang, U.E. and Rapp, M.A. 2013. Animal-assisted therapy and agitation and depression in nursing home residents with dementia: a matched case-control trial. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 21(11): 1052-1059.

Marcus, D.A. 2011. The power of wagging tails: a doctor's guide to dog therapy and healing. New York: Demos Medical Publishing.
Marcus, D.A. 2013. The science behind animal-assisted therapy. Current pain and headache reports, 17(4): 322.

Marquard, M., 2017. Puppy Prescriptions: Perceptions of Facility Dogs and Their Contribution to Psychosocial Care in Pediatric Hospitals. Ph.D. thesis, Mills College.

Memon, A., Meissner, C. A., and Fraser, J. 2010. The Cognitive Interview: A meta-analytic review and study space analysis of the past 25 years. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 16(4), 340-372.

Mongillo, P., Pitteri, E., Adamelli, S., Bonichini, S., Farina, L. and Marinelli, L. 2015. Validation of a selection protocol of dogs involved in animal - assisted intervention. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 10(2), 103-110.

Obrusnikova, I., Bibik, J.M., Cavalier, A.R. and Manley, K. 2012. Integrating therapy dog teams in a physical activity program for children with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 83(6): 37-48.

O'Mahony, B., Creaton, J., Smith, K., Milne, R. 2016. Developing a professional identity in a new work environment: the views of defendant intermediaries working in the criminal courts. Journal of Forensic Practice, 18(2): 155-166.

Palestrini, C., Calcaterra, V., Cannas, S., Talamonti, Z., Papotti, F., Buttram, D. and Pelizzo, G. 2017. Stress level evaluation in a dog during animal-assisted therapy in pediatric surgery. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 17, 44-49.

Parish-Plass, N. 2008. Animal-assisted therapy with children suffering from insecure attachment due to abuse and neglect: A method to lower the risk of intergenerational transmission of abuse? Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 13: 7-30.

Phillips, A. 2015. The Human-Animal Relationship in Context of the Juvenile and Criminal Justice Systems. In Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy, 295-303, ed. A.H. Fine. USA: Elsevier.

Phillips, J. D. and McQuarrie, D. 2010. Therapy Animals Supporting Kids (TASK) manual. American Humane Association.

Polheber, J. P. and Matchock, R. L. 2014. The presence of a dog attenuates cortisol and heart rate in the trier social stress test compared to human friends. Journal of Behavioural Medicine, 37(5): 860-867.

Powell, M.B., Wright, R. and Clark, S. 2010. Improving the competency of police officers in conducting investigative interviews with children. Police practice and research: an international journal, 11(3): 211-226.

Sachs-Ericsson, N., Hansen, N.K. and Fitzgerald, S. 2002. Benefits of assistance dogs: A review. Rehabilitation Psychology, 47(3), 251-277.

Sandoval, G.N. 2010. Court Facility Dogs—Easing the Apprehensive Witness. The Colorado Lawyer, 39(17): 17-23.

Schoenfeld-Tacher, R., Hellyer, P., Cheung, L. and Kogan, L. 2017. Public Perceptions of Service Dogs, Emotional Support Dogs, and Therapy Dogs. International journal of environmental research and public health, 14(6), 642-674.

Svatberg, K. 2006. Breed-typical behaviour in dogs—historical remnants or recent constructs? Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 96(3): 293-313.

Tedeschi, P., Fine, A. H. and Helgeson, J. I. 2010. Assistance animals: their evolving role in psychiatric service applications. In Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy, 421-440, ed. A.H. Fine. USA: Elsevier.

Timmins, R. and Fine, A. H. 2006. Role of the Veterinary Family Practitioner in Animal-Assisted Therapy and Animal-Assisted Activity Programs. In Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy, 475-486, ed. A.H. Fine. USA: Elsevier.

Turner, D. C. 2006. The Future of Research, Education, and Clinical Practice in the Anima-Human Bond and Animal-Assisted Therapy. Part A: The Role of Ethology in the Field of Human-Animal Relations and Animal Assisted Therapy. In Handbook on Animal Assisted Therapy, 487-498, ed. A.H. Fine. USA: Elsevier.

Ullman, S. 2007. Relationship to perpetrator, disclosure, social reactions, and PTSD symptoms in child sexual abuse survivors. Journal of child sexual abuse, 16: 19-36.

Weiss, E. 2002. Selecting shelter dogs for service dog training. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 5(1), 43-62.

Weiss, E. and Greenberg, G. 1997. Service dog selection tests: effectiveness for dogs from animal shelters. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 53(4), 297-308.

Wilson, C. and Powell, M. 2012. A guide to interviewing children: Essential skills for counsellors, police lawyers and social workers. Oxon: Routledge.

Wilsson, E. and Sundgren, P.E. 1997. The use of a behaviour test for the selection of dogs for service and breeding, I: Method of testing and evaluating test results in the adult dog, demands on different kinds of service dogs, sex and breed differences. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 53(4): 279-295.

Zamir, T. 2006. The moral basis of animal-assisted therapy. Society & Animals, 14(2), 179-199.

Zimmer, R. M. 2014. Partnering shelter dogs with prison inmates: An alternative strategy to reduce recidivism and teach social therapy (2014). Master's Thesis. American Public University.