Providing Comfort, Companionship, and Relief: The Use of Courtroom Dogs

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with almost everyone evacuated or rescued, more than 250,000 pets were left abandoned.1 Television screens flashed images of pets stranded on rooftops, dogs swimming desperately as they tried to find their owners, and starving animals staring out of windows wondering when their owners would be coming back for them. During the onset of the rescue effort, pet owners were ordered to abandon their pets, although some resisted. One woman with no possessions left other than her wedding ring, offered the officers the ring to save her dog. Some people, were able to rescue their pets by going through incredible hurdles. For example, Dohnn Moret Williams used an air mattress to float him and his dog to safety. However, once they made it to an elevated portion of the interstate where people were being evacuated by helicopter, Williams was not allowed to bring his dog. Instead of abandoning his dog, Williams put his pet in a large black trash bag with his nose sticking out of the top of the bag, and both successfully made it to the Astrodome.2 These heart-wrenching stories demonstrate that even in times of grave human tragedy, the bond between humans and dogs is unable to be severed. Dogs can provide comfort, companionship, and relief even in the worst circumstances.