Next time you enter Lismore Courthouse, be aware that the dogs you see patrolling in the foyer are there to make you feel more comfortable, not to sniff your pockets for anything illicit.
Six therapy dogs have ‘repawted’ for duty the courthouse as part of a program to reduce anxiety for vulnerable people.
Lismore MP Thomas George (Nationals) said Guide Dogs NSW/ACT trained the lovable Labradors, who will attend court on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays to comfort anyone doing it tough.
‘Fergus, Frankie, Humphrey, Indi, Sassy and Sebastian have been specially selected for the Canine Court Companion program because of their gentle nature and ability to happily interact with strangers,’ Mr George said.
‘Any court user who is feeling anxious or distressed can approach the dog handler and request some time with the animal in the foyers, waiting rooms and safe rooms, he added.
The program is being expanded to Lismore following a successful trial of therapy dogs at Manly Courthouse.
Nationals Lismore candidate Austin Curtin, who also attended the launch, said the pilot program received ‘unanimous support’ during the trial ‘with victims of crime, court staff, stakeholders and police [saying] they felt more relaxed after patting and chatting to the dogs’.
In addition to Manly and Lismore, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Labradors are also patrolling courts in Burwood, Campbelltown, Gosford and Sutherland, with additional regional sites to come over the next five months.
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT provided the dogs as part of its Pets As Therapy program.