Update on Canine Assisted Intervention Dogs in BC Courts

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This summer, Canada’s first Intervention K-9, Caber, made his first appearance in BC Supreme Court. As reported in a previous eNews , Caber is an accredited Canine Assisted Intervention (CAI) dog who joined the Delta Police Victim Services team in 2010. Since then he has calmed and comforted hundreds of people in crises and during police investigations. In 2013 he began accompanying witnesses to courthouses for interviews with prosecutors, and since 2015 he has supported two young witnesses by sitting at their feet while they testified in sexual assault trials or hearings in Provincial Court in Surrey.

In the June Supreme Court matter, Crown Counsel applied under section 486.7 of the Criminal Code for an order that Caber be permitted to accompany a child witness during her testimony in a sexual assault trial. Caber’s handler, Delta Police Victim Services Coordinator Kim Gramlich testified about:

  • Caber’s training, skills and experience
  • The access to public places permitted to accredited dogs like Caber (only dogs from accredited Guide and Assistance Dog schools have public access under BC’s Guide Dog and Service Dog Act)
  • Caber’s expected courtroom behaviour
  • Caber’s relationship with the child witness and her anticipated behaviour in the dog’s presence (was she likely to be distracted?)

She explains why these questions were relevant. “Experience has shown that training by an accredited assisted intervention dog school like Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS) is the best guarantee that a dog will be able to behave appropriately in a courtroom setting. But a trained handler is also needed to work with Crown Counsel to assess how a child reacts to the dog. If the child finds the dog distracting it is probably better not to use the dog in the courtroom.”

With the agreement of the defence lawyer, Caber was permitted to join the child in the witness box and sat quietly at her feet while she testified for several hours over several days.

Ms. Gramlich reports that there are now 17 accredited CAI dogs working in police agencies and child advocacy centres across Canada - in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec. “Canine Assisted Intervention dog “Lucca” joined the Vancouver Police Victim Services program in February 2016 and is proving to be a valuable addition, while a third BC police agency has just received their accredited CAI dog. Several others in BC and elsewhere have applied for accredited dogs from PADS and are waiting for their pups to finish training. PADS and several other accredited assistance dogs schools are now placing dogs around the country.”

She adds, "Caber continues to prove how valuable the unconditional care of a canine can be to a vulnerable witness. His remarkable behaviour in court is thanks to his exceptional assistance dog training at PADS."

This article provides general information only and should not be used authority in court proceedings or as a substitute for legal advice.