“Lol”: The labrador that calms anxious witnesses in French courts

Lol is a sweet 5 year old black labrador, lives at the local fire station and is summoned to court or interrogation rooms when prosecutor Frédéric Almendros deems it useful.

Jean-Thibault Daniel, of the Handi’chiens association to which Lol belongs, explains: “The consent of the victim or witness is required, but there are relatively few cases in which, if given the opportunity to meet Lol, they say that they do not want. The majority of cases in which it is used are those involving children or young adolescents, who can easily be disturbed by the environment and the procedures of a formal interview or court proceedings. “Having a friendly, empathetic dog by their side makes a difference.”

At first, Mr. Almendros believed that Lol’s role would be limited to keeping the victims and witnesses calm while waiting for their case, but he behaved so well that he was soon allowed to enter the courtroom. Mr Daniel said: “It was important that the dog did not interfere in the process, and it does not. “He sits quietly next to the victim or witness, but I have seen him react and caress or gently rub people when they are upset and seems to calm them down so they can continue their testimony or hear the trial.”

Lol went through the regular training provided to all Handi’chiens dogs, which was originally created to provide assistance dogs to people in wheelchairs or conditions such as epilepsy. Since then, the union has added training for dogs that go to nursing homes or help people with mental health problems. The puppies are bought at the age of two or three months and then spend 16 months with families of volunteers, whose mission is to socialize the young dogs and also to expose them to different situations.

The dogs then return to the club for six months of special training, which in Lol’s case was about strengthening empathy for humans. Mr Daniel told ConnexionFrance: “We are a recognized association and our work has been evaluated and supervised by the Ministry of Agriculture. It was this recognition that led Mr. Almendros to come to us with his idea. It was not as simple as you might think – one of the key decisions was where Lol would live, because at first we thought he would be with the police, but the law forbids police to use untrained dogs and their training “It concerns police dogs, drug and explosive detection dogs and search and rescue dogs, not escort dogs.”

“As it turns out, having a dog living in a fire station is great for firefighters and they are also able to use Lol in certain situations where it can help calm stressed people. There was also the legal framework, which had to be adapted and the rule was basically agreed that the prosecutor is the one who decides if the dog should be used as a witness or victim. “

Photo: BBC

Lol is likely to continue working until he retires

Mr Almendros was so impressed with the results of his first trial year that he wrote to the Minister of Justice urging the use of court dogs elsewhere. There are also moves in Parliament to provide a legal framework for their use and it is likely that three or four other courts will try to use guide dogs from next year.

As for Lol, he is likely to continue working at Cahors until his retirement – sometime in the future. “There is no fixed retirement age. “Sometimes dogs seem to be fed up and stop doing what they are trained to do, while others go on, but most work until they are 10 years old,” said Daniel. “Then they either retire to families that support the union, or stay with their people but do not work.”



Main photo: BBC

Source: Εναλλακτική Δράση by enallaktikidrasi.com.

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