Justice Facility Dog
The Saffron Sexual Assault Centre is a non-profit organization in Strathcona County that provides services to those affected by sexual violence. The centre caters to a variety of groups, including low/no income individuals, at-risk youth, and women. Saffron provides counselling, police and court support, and public education services to ensure wrap-around supports for the community. In 2018, Saffron applied for a justice facility dog through The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, an ADI-accredited organization that specializes in training service dogs. Justice facility dogs are trained in this program to provide extensive comfort and emotional support to trauma survivors. Saffron received our acceptance for placement on September 22, 2021. This placement is of great significance as there are no other facility support dogs in our community, which allows us to fill a substantial gap in rural justice police and court support services. Our facility dog will empower clients by accompanying them to counselling sessions, police interviews, and witness testimony in preliminary hearings and trials. The Field Law Community Fund provides coverage for the cost of having the dog working in the centre and the community of Strathcona County for Saffron’s first year of placement.
Who Will it Benefit?
Because we are a rural sexual assault centre and attend court up to 200km away, Saffron expects that the benefits of our placement will extend into Strathcona County, the City of Edmonton, and surrounding rural areas. Extensive research has proven the benefit of having a facility dog working in the field of specialized trauma support. Trained facility dogs have the capacity to support clients in ways that humans simply cannot. In witness testimony, for example, it is essential for witnesses to communicate their experiences to the court without becoming elevated into a state of panic, which may inhibit their ability to express themselves. Similarly, in counselling clients may struggle to discuss their memories, frustrations and feelings. Facility dogs are proven to build rapport between clients and support workers and bridge gaps in communication by acting as a source of grounding for those who are emotionally escalated. The unconditional, non-judgmental acceptance that facility dogs show towards survivors has been proven to build trust, increase relaxation and confidence, and reduce stress. By accompanying people to police interviews, counselling sessions, and trials, the justice facility dog will aid and empower those who have experienced sexual violence in coming forward and elevate Saffron's ability to serve our clients.