The first pet therapy dog to serve in a juvenile detention facility in Florida is now officially certified.
Justice, the dog that has served at the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center since January, has passed his certification exams and is now an official Pet Therapy Dog and Canine Good Citizen.
Department of Juvenile Justice officials say the dog is an integral part of the rehabilitation process.
"Many of the youth in our care had difficult, sometimes painful, relationships with other people prior to entering the juvenile justice system,” DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters said in a news release. “In addition to traditional therapies, we are proud to offer pet therapy to help youth cope with the emotions youth experience while in detention and away from their families."
Walters said dogs like Justice have the ability to listen and provide people with unconditional and empathetic non-verbal feedback. The therapy dog was trained by Miami Dog Whisperer Richard Heinz and personal dog trainer Oscar Anzueto.
Officials said they have received good feedback about Justice from the youth at the detention center.
"Justice has helped me become more outgoing and stress free," one juvenile said in a press release. "Even though we are secured, when we go outside to play with Justice I feel a bit of freedom."
Justice is part of the Canine Comfort program, which Walters plans to expand by adding more certified therapy dogs to other facilities in the next few months.
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