Courthouse dogs research: a protection tool for minors testifying.

The presence of our dogs humanizes the courts and makes visible the minors involved in the judicial system.

Photo of Vanessa Carral Portilla
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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize and, based on its description, I am eligible to apply:

  • Yes, I’m eligible
  • Yes, I’m 18 years old or older

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend:

  • The Purina BetterwithPets Forum in Paris, on 3-4th of June 2020

Initiative's representative name

Vanessa Carral Portilla

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • Spain

Headquarters location: city

Carretera de Canillas 17 28043 Madrid

Where are you making a difference?


Website or social media url(s)

Date Started

Julio de 2015

Focus Areas

  • The presence of Courthouse Dogs offers an emotional support to the minors reducing anxiety behaviors

What is your current yearly budget for the initiative? If you are an idea stage, what early budget you would need to kick-off and run operations in your first year?

  • €1k - €10k

Organisation Type

  • hybrid: a combination of different types of organisations, such as a social enterprise (an organisation that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being)

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

When I was working as a Psychologist at National Police i was witnessed of minors involved in justice issues so this make me feel that those facilities like courthouses, police stations,... where built for adults by adults. The minors are not taking in account but they still have to visit those places and talk to strangers about many personal issues they've been throug. It's really heartbroken when you see the anxiety in their eyes. So I needed to do something about it but it was many years after that,after being abroad learning about the power of animals when I realized that they could make a huge differences. Once back in Spain we create Dogtor Animal and find the way to make my dream to help minors involved in justice themes come true.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

The presence of children in the Courts is a reality that reveals specific needs to be covered. This research addresses the presence in the Spanish Courts of Justice of Coruthose Dogs for testifying kids wich helps to reduce anxiety factors and facilitate positive emotional states during forensic interviews or testimonies

3. Your solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

The research is the starting point for the inclusion of Courthouse Dogs in judicial offices as humanization of the Courts, offering a protection tool for minors and facilitating the work of court professionals, in those cases the presence the presence of de support dog fits in. So we need first o amplify the research, expanding the sample and controlling factors of internal validity (maturation effect and experimental bias) and external validity (Reactive effects of experimental arrangements and novelty effect). So the possibility of adding a neurofeedback tool in the second research phase is proposed in order to complement the results with objective physiological data. Secondly we need to generalize the presence of Courthouse Dogs in every facility is needed.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

Courts are no longer perceived as a hostil place by minors an we even realeased the previous anxiety helping the kids wanted to come to the forensic interviews. Finally, the pioneering character in Spain of the service of Courthouse Dogs for Juveniles in Courts gives the attached document an innovation view that may be interesting in the eyes of the reader who will be able to discover the adaptation of the presence of animals specifically trained to the Spanish Judicial System, implementing specific protocols, innovated techniques and an experimental design according to the incorporation of a tool, previously used in the Spanish Courts.

5. How does your project harness the pet-human bond to help people develop important social competencies (For example: emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy, resilience, inclusivity) and overcome serious societal issues (for example: violence, abuse, trauma, isolation, abandonment)?

The pressing need to count on the children´s presence at the Courthouses and to offer them support adapted to their individualities highlights the importance of this present project. Presence of Courthouse Dogs has a significant influence on the absence of nervous movements and restlessness. At the same time, the presence of Courthouse Dogs influences the emotional states verbalized by the children, being these more proactive in the communicative interactions with the court professionals. The Courthouse Dogs offers the generation of secure bonds between the children and the court professionals, they being perceived as more reliable and favoring more fluid interviews from positive emotional states.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

We are sharing the research results in many forums. we plan to publish it and keep doing educational conferences sort or the project is known everywhere. We also plan to organize a big event in the spanish justice facilities for the professionals to know about the project. We are planning to do a second research as we wrote before.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

We wat to include geographic spread and educational actions.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

We have being sponsored at the beginning by our own work, now we are working with public institutions and we still looking for more investors to make the project bigger.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

Actually we are a multidisciplinary team with is made of: 1 Clinical and educational psychologist (full Time) 2 Social Psychologist (part time) 1 Nurse (part time) 1 Animal traidor (full time) 4 handlers (part time) 1 Coordinator and handler (full time) 9 Dogs

11. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize?

If we are the winners, we want to influence how humans interact with animals and show how animals can be an engine of change in each one of us. Likewise we want to educate in the idea of ​​animal human coexistence from respect and compassion teaching how we can be respectful and responsible with the animals that surround us. We want to be agents of change in the consciences of the people as well as to demonstrate that our animals can open windows where all the doors are closed. Open minds and go beyond limitations

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email

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