Therapy Dogs in the Courtroom as Advocates for Child Witnesses: An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of Judges' Opinions, Experiences, and Rulings


Paula Bradley

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)



Date of Award

Fall 2014


The purpose of this study was to describe judges' opinions, experiences, and rulings regarding therapy dogs in the courtroom as witnesses' advocates during testimony. This study contributed to the literature by providing qualitative accounts of judges' views of how having therapy dogs in the courtroom as witnesses' advocates may relieve stress and anxiety for witnesses/victims, contribute or detract from legal proceedings, and influence the proceedings. Also addressed were related issues regarding funding, care of the dog, and qualifying of cases to use this advocacy tool. Data came from a convenience sample of five district judges currently serving in Texas. Semi-structured, individual interviews, ranging from 60 to 90 minutes, were conducted. Follow-up interviews were conducted via phone calls, unless a judge requested a face-to-face follow-up. Interviews were identified through pseudonyms. After a thorough review of the literature, 21 interview questions were developed. This review provided information about child victimization through neglect, physical, and sexual abuse, and parental discord, resulting in contact with the legal system. It produced information about the therapeutic benefits of dogs, as well as information about the use of courtroom dogs in advocacy roles for child witnesses. Semi-structured interviews and qualitative analysis were appropriate for use with issues that were personal or controversial (Smith, 1996). They were also suitable where complexity or process was of particular interest (Smith, 1996).


Stephen Armstrong

Subject Categories

Counseling | Social and Behavioral Sciences