For many years dogs have been used to support people who are most vulnerable, so the potential to use dogs within the Criminal Justice System was explored, in particular by the police when dealing with vulnerable and traumatised witnesses.
Due to the nature of many of the incidents they have been involved in, vulnerable witnesses often find it extremely difficult to speak and to open up to the police.
The introduction of a dog into this process can assist in breaking down some of these barriers quicker, by putting witnesses at their ease and opening up the essential lines of communication sooner.
Hertfordshire Constabulary’s RAPPAW scheme has provided a small cohort of volunteer dog owners who can assist interviewing officers at the rapport building stage with the witness.
The RAPPAW volunteers are also called upon to provide after care and support for vulnerable victims within the community who have been offered the scheme and consented to it, regularly visiting them and providing much needed additional support.
The RAPPAW dogs are all PAT (Pets As Therapy) tested. The scheme is in its infancy but has seen great success with vulnerable witnesses really engaging in the process.