In 2011, Lauren’s Kids worked hard to lobby the Florida Legislature to become the first state in the country with a law on the books (HB251 enacted July 1, 2011) allowing therapy animals to accompany victims of sexual abuse during court proceedings. The law passed and since its implementation, countless children have felt the therapeutic effects of having a friend and companion in the courtroom with them during what are often difficult, lengthy and stressful proceedings. Victims of sexual abuse in Miami all the way to the state capitol in Tallahassee benefit from the legislation and Lauren’s Kids is proud to have been a part of helping it happen.
For decades, the value of therapy animals such as dogs have helped people across the country with everything from mental and emotional trauma to physical disabilities. From nursing homes to veteran’s hospitals, therapy animals have long provided a sense of comfort and thanks to the Florida Legislature and supporters of Lauren’s Kids, children in courtrooms also have a chance to experience the therapeutic nature of man’s best friend. Studies show that therapy animals can help someone with their blood pressure, heart rate and overall ability to remain calm in stressful situations. That reduction in anxiety can be very helpful in giving a child courage in recovery.
Therapy dogs are not like the furry friends you see around your neighborhood. They are specially trained to interact with those who have experienced trauma. They are gentle, loving and can help give a child the confidence they need to face a courtroom full of strangers and give testimony which can prevent a predator from committing the same abuse in the future. Animals are in a unique position to provide therapy as they are always non-judgmental and children can sense that a dog simply wants to be a friend.
A therapy animal cannot make someone forget about the abuse completely, but they can provide a sense of comfort and support which allows a victim to move forward with the healing process. It’s often difficult for child abuse victims during the legal proceedings as they can be confusing and long. Having therapy animals available for children is a step in the right direction towards helping children with recovery, but it’s hardly the final solution. Only through education and awareness can we truly put a stop to abuse and make the world a better place for our kids. Contact Lauren’s Kids today for more information about how a therapy animal can help.