Since 2010, the Canine Advocacy Program of Michigan, CAP for short, has provided advocacy services to child victims utilizing highly trained dogs to help alleviate anxiety with being involved in the criminal justice system. The program is the first of its kind in Michigan, started by long time supervisor of Victim Services at the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office Daniel Cojanu. It began with one dog, now the program has 18 dogs working with children across the state in 16 counties, and 5 dogs working with veterans.
The dogs are provided on a referral basis for children in court appearances, support groups, and litigation. The first dog for the program was Amos, a two and a half year old Chocolate Labrador Retriever that was career changed from Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Michigan. Amos began his journey after he was released from the Leader Dog program and has become a well-known furry face in the Oakland County Courthouse. Recently Amos gained a new brother, Lance, who also assists him in court and at Oakland County’s Children’s Village during group meetings. Leader Dog’s for the Blind has been an great advocate for the program, providing career changed dogs, training, and guidance for the animals.
All CAP dogs are trained to behave during proceedings or litigation. They lay quietly near the child in the courtroom and are quiet and unobtrusive when protocol calls for this. Dogs introduced to children for the first time are allowed to play and romp with the child to build a relationship before they are needed for service. Often times the children are given treats to get the dogs to perform tricks, and are encouraged to form a bond with the animal to help give them a sense of security and self-confidence when the dog is needed in the future.
The children who receive assistance from the CAP animals, are allowed the dog for a day. This allows the children a sense of security and happiness that they have a companion during the often times intimidating process. CBS has it’s eye on the Canine Advocacy Program in their Eye on Detroit video:
While getting children to testify is not the ultimate goal of the program, a testifying witness helps to put away offenders. Cojanu wants to stress that, “Even though your county might not have a dog available, victim advocates and prosecuting attorneys around the state are willing to step in and help neighboring counties in need of a canine advocate. We want our canines to be of service to anyone in need of assistance.”
For more information on the Canine Advocacy Program, visit their website here. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on the program’s events and dog announcements. You can also follow Amos and Lance on Facebook!
The Canine Advocacy Program is currently funded entirely by donations. To support this organization and the work that they do, make a tax-deductible donation through their website here.