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Courthouse dogs Tibet and Lorne bring comfort to abused and traumatized Hillsborough County children

Dogs help kids find their voice during testimony
Posted at 4:11 AM, Nov 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-03 09:50:20-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Tibet and Lorne are very good at their jobs.

Even when they're snoozing on laps.

They are the cuddly, yet important, stars at the Courthouse Facility Dog Program at Voices for Children in Hillsborough County.

Tibet and Lorne are trained to calm and comfort children who have been traumatized by abuse and neglect.

During a terrifying moment in a child's life, possibly pulled away from a family and surrounded by strangers, the dogs are safe havens.

They often help these kids find the voice and confidence to share what happened to them during court testimony. And their reach is extending beyond the courthouse into hospitals, homes and more.

"Our work has been embraced, and the demand for our services has grown exponentially," says Brenda Kocher, a guardian ad litem and the director of the Courthouse Facility Dog Program.

The program started about six years ago with Tibet. She was bred by Canine Companions for Independence.

To keep up with unfortunate demand, especially during the pandemic, this February the program brought on Lorne and her handler Dayle Urquhart.

"Because of COVID, we're expecting a tidal wave of new child abuse cases," says Kocher.

Besides being a source of solace for children, Tibet and Lorne are trained to accept simple commands, giving the children a voice and sense of control at a time when it's near-impossible for them to have either.

For more information on the Courthouse Facility Dog Program, click here.