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Did you know the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia has a full-time therapy dog called Poppy working within the Court in the Melbourne Registry. Poppy is a 2-year-old black Labrador, who underwent training with Guide Dogs Australia before being appointed as a therapy dog in October 2023.

Poppy’s role is to assist litigants and children involved in family court proceedings, and Poppy can provide support in several settings within the Court’s Melbourne registry – such as the courtroom, court foyer and waiting area, mediation rooms, and during children’s court interviews. In a media release the court said that dogs like Poppy can provide comfort and emotional support to people within the justice system, give a sense of normalcy, assist with facilitating communication, and provide a healthy distraction from a trauma response and a physical source of calming touch.

It is important to note that Therapy Dogs like Poppy are not considered “Assistance Dogs”, which means that they’re not trained to provide specific health supports, but are fully qualified to offer comfort, friendship, and loyalty, as well as providing support to those who may need it.

In a media release issued by the Court, Dr Russell Harrison, who is the general manager for Dog and Vision Services at Guide Dogs Victoria said that: – “Some dogs like Poppy have the perfect nature and training to offer support as a Therapy Dog, placed in unique situations to provide companionship and offer emotional support to those in need”. Dr Harrison went on to say that Poppy will have a positive impact on the wellbeing of people navigating the Family Law system.

A black labrador therapy dog called Poppy lies on the floor and looks up
Three legal representatives stand in court halls with a court therapy dog named Poppy who is a black labrador.

We hope that it will only be a matter of time before the Courts offer therapy dogs like Poppy in all of the Court Registry’s throughout Australia. Family law mediation services within the court (such as providing child custody legal advice or family law conflict resolution), are often highly emotional matters, not to mention that Court is often a very unnerving and nerve-wracking experience for client’s and their families. Therapy dogs like Poppy would provide much needed comfort and support to litigants and their families during the family law process.

At Pippa Colman Family Law, our team of Sunshine Coast family lawyers is an office of dog lovers, with several members of our team owning dogs, who occasionally come to work with them. One of our directors, Sarah Quilliam has two rescue greyhounds, Mickey and Georgie who are regularly in attendance during appointments with Sarah to provide support and comfort to our client’s during their appointments. Mickey and Georgie also regularly attend our weekly office team meetings and are known to dress up in matching outfits. Whilst they have not completed the Therapy Dogs training, as Poppy has, we think that Mickey and Georgie are suitably qualified to provide assistance to our new and current client’s during their appointments or mediations.

If you are looking for family law advice on the Sunshine Coast would like to have Mickey and Georgie with you during your appointment at our office, as a source of comfort and support, we would be happy to accommodate that, and we encourage you to get in contact with our office to arrange an appointment.

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