Advocates for child abuse have brought on two new puppies to support victims of child abuse. Toba Centre for Children and Youth have hired Booster and Duke to be there when children are interviewed by police.
“We know from our partners across this country that the addition of dogs in the interview process is game-changing,” said Executive Director Christy Dzicowicz.
Toba Centre works with the Winnipeg Police Service and Manitoba RCMP to get connected with victims and their families.
Dzicowicz says other cities in Canada have used therapy dogs to work with abused youth and it works. She told a story of one girl who had been sexually assaulted and had a hard time opening up to investigators, so they left the girl alone with the dog.
“The child turned and just completely started to disclose to the dog,” said Dzicowicz. “Our interview was recorded, and that’s where she felt safe.”
There’s an average of 4,000 child abuse investigations in Manitoba each year, according to Toba Centre. They say they interview roughly 400 of those children and youth per year. When it comes to demographics, 54 per cent are Indigenous and 74 per cent identify as female.
Dzicowicz says the nature of the work is extremely hard for the children, but also for staff and the pups. She says the dogs bear the burden of humans. However, she says Booster and Duke know how to relax after a long day at work.
“They just know what their dog job is, and when they’re off duty they are having a good time.”
According to a national report by Children First Canada, there has been an increased risk of child maltreatment and child abuse observed since the pandemic began, as well as a decline in reporting.