Lee County judge pushing for therapy dogs in court

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FORT MYERS, Fla.- Therapy dogs may have a new role at the Lee County Courthouse in providing comfort to children going through a custody battle.

It’s an initiative Judge Robert Branning has been pushing for, “court can be so intimidating. The dogs we find, the pets we find because they have such great calm demeanors, it calms the children.”

Branning says the children are often already in a stressful environment.

“The children are out of their routine, sometimes they change schools, they certainly aren’t waking up in their own bed at night, and it can be a very upsetting, disheartening process,” Branning said. “These are cases where the child has suffered abuse, abandonment or neglect.”

Keli Ackroyd with the Children’s Advocacy Center adds “having that presence, that calming, loving accepting presence makes all the difference for these kids.”

Branning says the dogs would be allowed in the children’s waiting rooms to help “reduce the anxiety, reduce the intimidation and it helps them come from a place of calm rather than fear that normally might be associated with it.”

The judge hopes to have the dogs in the courthouse in the next few weeks.

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