The benefits of using therapy dogs in various settings is well known, with the canines already regular visitors to hospitals, mental health and aged care facilities and prisons. And recently, “placid pooches” have also been deployed in a Therapy Dog program in 10 NSW courthouses following a successful pilot trial, to be available in foyers, waiting rooms, safe areas and witness rooms. But could their use in the legal setting be extended, with the use of therapy dogs in family law mediation? New research out of Canada makes the case for canine-assisted mediation.
Canine-assisted mediation refers to having specially trained dogs in a mediation room together with the parties during the mediation proceedings.
A family lawyer in Kamloops, British Columbia, looking into the subject of therapy dogs and family law mediation “soon discovered the subject had been studied in most every discipline except law”. Having noted the calming presence his own dog had on mediation clients, the lawyer decided to conduct research into the subject of canine-assisted mediation in the family law setting. Now, that research has been published in the Harvard Negotiation Review journal.
The research asked how dogs assist with emotional legal proceedings and the results showed dogs could help manage emotions, finding “convincing evidence of a dog’s ability to bring stability to one’s affective and cognitive disposition”, making them an ideal emotional support to help keep people calm during stressful situations.
Therapy dogs in family law mediation could actively “reduce stress, promote trust, foster stronger and more effective communications between parties”, the researcher said. He is now training up working therapy dogs specifically for use in family law.
“I can bring oxytocin into the room by bringing Charlie [the dog]”, says the researcher of his poodle which is set to become Canada’s first certified therapy dog used in family mediation.
Based on the 12,000 year mutual history that dogs and humans share, it’s posited that dogs have become especially sensitive to our emotions and wellbeing.
Given that in family law mediation, it’s people’s emotionality that most interferes with their ability to work out a reasonable solution with their ex, it makes sense to consider adding ‘another tool in the toolkit’ with therapy dogs in family law mediation, to work towards achieving a maximally harmonious outcome for both parties.
Read more: CBC
Do you need family law advice or would you like to know more about our mediation services? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Legal Services.