New Brunswick home to second courthouse support dog named Jaz

Click to play video: 'Jazz the dog helps victims of crime as they navigate court system'
Jazz the dog helps victims of crime as they navigate court system
The justice system is going to the dogs – but in a good way. New Brunswick courts now have Jazz, a Labrador retriever that helps victims of crime remain calm as they go through the legal system. And Jazz’s handlers hope similar programs will someday expand across the country. Shelley Steeves reports – Nov 3, 2022

New Brunswick is now home to a second justice facility dog, Jaz, who is trained to help victims of crime navigate the criminal justice system.

Jaz will join forces with black poodle Marielle, who became the first justice facility dog in the province in May 2019.

Kristal LeBlanc, the CEO of the Beausejour Family Crisis Resource Centre said, like Marielle, Jaz is trained to provide emotional support for victims of family violence and sexual assault who are navigating the courts.

“He is just able to provide support that no human I could think of could really ever provide,” said LeBlanc.

LeBlanc said Jaz is one of only just over 60 justice facility dogs in the country.

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“His job is to go to court with either vulnerable children as well as adults, especially for cases of domestic violence and sexual assault,” she said.

Jaz is trained to curl up directly in the witness stand to provide calming companionship for victims when they testify.

“It really takes away the scariness of the courthouse that can seem kind of cold and not very welcoming,” said LeBlanc.

“They do a down stay and they are with them sometimes three or four of five hours.”

Jaz was trained by the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides in Oakville, Ont. Art Fernandez, an instructor at the facility, said Jaz was chosen at birth for his calm, bombproof nature and sense of compassion.

“Those eyes are everything right. Imagine in the victims support role and you have a victim looking to those eyes,” said Fernandez.

LeBlanc said Jaz can also be on hand to support victims of crime before and leading up to the proceedings.

“Jaz can be with you when you do your statement with police the first time you report the crime,” she said.

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Jaz can also on hand to support victims of sexual assault requiring forensic medical exams, serving as a comforting distraction from the stress of navigating the criminal justice system, particularly for children.

“Their red cape, they often say, is like their superhero cape.”

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