In Lyon, a legal assistance dog to accompany and soothe victims during their testimony



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It is often difficult for victims of violence, aggression or rape to denounce their executioner. And once this step has been taken, it is in front of a judge that they will have to relive their trauma. To accompany them as well as possible and appease them, the justice system sometimes uses animal mediation with legal assistance dogs. Example at the Court of Lyon which has been experimenting with the device for a few weeks. #TheyHaveTheSolution

How to help victims to verbalize a traumatic attack, calm them down during their testimony before a judge and relieve the pressure? Justice is now relying on a new approach: animal mediation, thanks to legal assistance dogs. This is the case at the moment in the Lyon court where an examining magistrate called on LOL, a Labrador from Cahors and specially trained for the exercise.

For the past few weeks, the judge has been hearing about thirty alleged victims in a serial rape case. A stressful, even paralyzing judicial step for some victims. The presence of LOL during the auditions freed up the floor. This is the case for Paul, 22 years old: “I was so stressed that it started to bring tears to my eyes when we brought it all out. And finally, little by little when I petted the dog, he started to give me confidence (…) and I was less stressed. My heart was beating slower, I was shaking less, fewer tears, and I almost talked to the dog more than to the judge.“.

Diving back into a traumatic event and freeing speech via animal mediation, the concept comes from the United States. In this delicate case, twelve victims aged 22 to 47 benefited from the system, with success according to Michaël Janas, president of the Lyon judicial court: “We are told : ‘I initially found the dog a bit odd, but it reassured me, it calmed me down’. The dog can also intervene within the police stations when the victim will file a complaint and explain what happened, before the judge during the investigation, but also during the hearing, that has already happened. It’s really tailor-made, to ensure the serenity of justice“.

LOL was, in 2019, the first legal assistance dog in Europe. Today, there are five assigned to different jurisdictions, including Strasbourg, Orleans and Nimes. The dogs are trained by the Handi’Chiens association.

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