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Defense and Prosecuting Attorney Perceptions of Facility Dogs in the Courtroom

By Kristy Melissa Donaldson

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Attorneys must obtain evidence for purporting their position on a court case. Many factors are considered when working with witness testimony such as age, development, narrative recall, and retraumatization. Research has detailed the hardship of obtaining evidence during witness testimony and the importance of support systems to help with the process. Existing research illustrates the stressors caused by the court processes, witness fear, and difficulty for attorneys to ascertain testimony. Therapeutic animals have been well researched and shown to have an important support role in many professions and situations. Additionally, much has been written regarding the use of varying types of court approved support systems. However, there is a gap in the literature regarding how attorneys perceive the use of facility dogs as support systems in the courtroom. The case study sought to understand how defense and prosecuting attorneys perceive the use of facility dogs in the courtroom, and how that experience has influenced their belief system. Data collection was completed through a 7 question phone interview process. The data collected via phone interviews were coded and analyzed through the use of NVivo software and Survey Monkey database. The analysis revealed the participants high level of acceptance on the use of facility dogs in the courtroom as support systems. Attorneys were open and receptive to learning more about dogs as a support system, even when hesitant about the outcome. The revelations from this study may be used to provide additional support to witnesses. Data collected within this study will propel future studies and education in many different animal advocate groups and legal entities.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2017
Pages 112
Department Forensic Psychology
Degree Doctor of Philosophy
Language English
University Walden University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Animal roles
  4. Courts
  5. Dogs
  6. Facility Dogs
  7. open access
  8. peer-reviewed
  9. Pets and companion animals
  10. therapy animals
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed