Meet the Courthouse Dogs Who Help Traumatized Witnesses Testify at Trial

In courtrooms the country, specially trained canine companions are helping make the legal system a little less stressful.

image via courthouse dogs foundation // facebook

I consider myself lucky to have never been asked to testify in court. That said, years of watching Law & Order, coupled with having friends who work as trial attorneys lead me to believe it’s a tremendously stressful experience. I can only imagine, then, how trying–if not outright traumatizing–it must be to be called to testify against someone accused of attacking, harassing, or hurting you, or someone you care about.

For those put in that position, however, Bellevue, Washington’s “Courthouse Dogs” is there to help. With the motto “Promoting Justice with Compassion,” Courthouse Dogs trains emotional support dogs to accompany someone to the stand, in the hopes that their presence will calm the witness, and make the experience less emotionally fraught, overall.

image via courthouse dogs foundation // facebook

Founded by Ellen O'Neill Stephens and Celeste Walsen, Courthouse Dogs operates in pre-trial prosecutorial meetings, and child-advocacy settings, as well. As Stephens, a retired prosecutor, told Upworthy:

When a person is reliving a traumatic event, they experience physiological reactions similar to what they had when the event was taking place. This adversarial system [of testifying in front of your attacker] is brutal.A lot of people come out damaged by it.

Dogs have a long history of being used therapeutically. Courthouse Dogs simply made the connection between the trauma of testifying in court, and the soothing effect dogs can have on many people. The nonprofit began training their specially selected “facility dogs” around the country in the late 2000s, but according to Walsen, herself a veterinarian, Stephens had been using dogs in legal settings as early as 2003.

image via courthouse dogs foundation // facebook

What makes Courthouse Dog? As their website states, dogs undergo approximately two years of training, and must pass the same sort of testing guide dogs go through, in order to demonstrate it can be trusted in public, professional settings.

As Walsen and Stephens explained to Upworthy, there are currently some eighty seven dogs–largely Labs, and Golden Retrievers–working in more than half the United States. To learn more about Courthouse Dogs and their ongoing work to make courtrooms a more just, less-stressful environment, visit their website.

[via bored panda, upworthy]


September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Thomas Kelley on Unsplash

It's fun to go to a party, talk to strangers, and try to guess where they're from just by their accents and use of language. It's called 'soda' on the East Coast and 'pop' in the Midwest, right? Well, it looks like a new study has been able to determine where a Humpback whale has been and who he's been hanging out with during his awesome travels just from his song.

Keep Reading Show less

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less