Amid lawyers’ robes and policemen’s uniforms, courtrooms will soon see more truffles, hairs and four-legged friends. This Tuesday, the Keeper of the Seals went to the court ofOrleans to meet two legal aid dogs. These hairy workers make it possible to help in particular the victims of rapes, attempted homicides and child abuse during legal proceedings. The Minister of Justice Eric Dupond Moretti announced the government’s intention to generalize these four-legged companions.
The objective is to have “one dog per department” in France to accompany minor victims. To the UNITED STATESnearly 300 dogs already fulfill this role, specifies Laurence Paoli, author of When animals do us good (Buchet-Chastel editions). In France, it was in 2019 that Frédéric Almendros, then prosecutor of Cahorsconducted an experiment. Lol, a black Labrador, proudly wears the title of first judicial assistance dog in France. Today, the Handi’chiens association has provided ten dogs throughout France, eight in judicial bodies, one in the gendarmerie and one in a police station. Ten more have been requested and are awaiting training.
“Living comforters” who “never judge”
“This announcement is extremely positive”, welcomes Laurence Paoli, specialist in relations between humans and animals. “It is very recent in France and until now it was about personal initiatives, not that of the State whereas it is proven that the legal assistance dog has a beneficial effect for certain categories of victims “, she underlines. For child victims of abuse or abuse, speaking up and telling stories is a particularly difficult ordeal. However, “it’s easier for a child to tell things to a dog rather than to a human who has different codes,” adds Laurence Paoli. Especially since the animal never asks “that you bear his pain and will always look at you the same way. For example, he will never look at you as a victim. »
Especially since man’s best friend is never in judgment. “The love of animals is extraordinary and unconditional”, abounds Yolaine de La Bigne, co-author of animal intelligence (Health Media editions). “The animal will always listen to you, love you and never judge you. If you are ugly, handicapped or bad in class, he will always love you, ”she lists. The dogs will follow the child on tiptoe from the “beginning” of the procedure until “the end” during a possible trial, said the Justice Ministry. These “living cuddly toys”, as he nicknamed them Eric Dupond Morettiwill free the voice of children while 160,000 minors are victims of sexual violence each year, according to a report published in September by the Independent Commission on Incest and Sexual Abuse of Children (Ciivise).
Less stress, more love
Some victims who have gone through a violent trauma then find themselves in administrative labyrinths, lost in icy maze of articles of law and sanitized procedures. The presence of the dog makes it possible to humanize justice. “Almost all animals have a very high emotional intelligence, which is not necessarily the case with humans. We are able to go on the Moon and to read technical projects, but we have lost contact with the pure emotions that the animals have kept”, deciphers Yolaine de La Bigne. The simple presence of an animal in the daily life of a human improves his health. “They are the kings of emotion, they cause us real physical well-being,” she adds.
Several studies show that in the presence of a pet, our levels of oxytocin, nicknamed the hormone of love, increase drastically. Conversely, the level of cortisol, associated with stress, drops in the presence of our four-legged friends. ” At Canada, a director of pediatric oncology had set up an animal mediation program. Comforted by the presence of the dog, the children ate better, took their treatment more easily and lived the experience in a more positive way”, illustrates Laurence Paoli. Some retirement homes adopt cats to help residents. Felines are known for their purring, a true natural anxiolytic. We are also talking about purrtherapy.
These truffled “superheroes”
But the canine has another asset in its fur sleeve. HAS the hospital like in court, it is not uncommon to feel impressed, intimidated or even terrified. However, the dog has a figure of “protector”. “Some people who testify accompanied by a legal aid dog cling to the animal. The dog gives them the necessary courage, and no one can hurt them as long as he is there,” explains Laurence Paoli. A welcome reassurance when a victim has to face his attacker. In addition, the mere presence of an animal makes it possible to “pacify relations”, notes Yolaine de La Bigne. Sharing a knowing look about the adorable ball of fur who carefully sits in the courtroom or an amused knowing look when she sneezes allows you to escape together for a moment. Far from the tragedies that often haunt the courts.
Assistance dogs are “super dogs, superhero dogs”, says Laurence Paoli. Chosen for their character and their empathy, they are trained for more than a year and a half. “It has to be dogs that have a natural appetite for humans and a taste for humans and physical contact,” recalls the animal bond specialist. Still, the well-being of these furry caregivers is crucial.
Dogs must stay “well on their feet” and, real emotional sponges, they need regular rest. For example, Lol has dandruff in her coat after the procedures. A sign that the Labrador needs a breather. “It’s stressful for them, training in ethology is essential to pay attention to the well-being of the dog. The dogs also have to turn,” explains Laurence Paoli. One dog per department will therefore be insufficient, but the training of a canine superhero costs 17,000 euros, according to Handi’chiens. It will therefore be necessary for the moment to be content with humans for many audiences in order to avoid burnout canines.