A charity that provides therapy and support to children and families affected by child sexual abuse is seeking to employ a courthouse dog to help children give evidence in Irish criminal court cases.
Children At Risk in Ireland (CARI) has partnered with Dogs for the Disabled, and is hoping to fundraise €130,000 to train a courthouse dog as part of a two-year research project.
Courthouse dogs have been used in America for several years and help children to deal with the various stages of both the criminal justice and social service systems.
CARI's Executive Director, Eve Farrelly, explained that if a child is under the age of 18 and has to give a witness testimony at a criminal trial, they can do so via video link.
Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, she said the child goes to a separate part of the courthouse to use a set-up similar to Skype, and that a member of court services remains with the child the whole time to ensure the child is okay and is not being intimidated.
"Anybody who works with children will know that you can't work with them in isolation. Wherever there is a child, there is also the child's support network, which is often the child's family, and they bring with them their own anxieties."
Ms Farrelly went on to say that when they first come into contact with a family, they're presented with "many different layers of anxiety" and that children "wear a heavy burden".
She said exposure to dogs is proven to have a "significant impact" on the stress levels of humans, and that the Irish courts service is fully cooperative with CARI's plan to introduce a courthouse dog in Ireland.
She said that once funding is secured, Dogs For The Disabled has agreed to "specifically and specially train a dog".