Justice Facility Dogs: A collaborative
response for victims of crime

Justice Facility Dogs: A collaborative

response for victims of crime

Accredited Justice Facility Dogs are now working across Canada!

The Beausejour Family Crisis Resources Centre and the Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS) partnered with Justice Facility Dogs Canada to create this online resource.

This resource is intended to assist agencies and individuals interested in starting their own Justice Facility Dog Program or wishing to learn more about how Accredited Facility Dogs work to support victims of crime and trauma in Canada.

What is a Justice Facility Dog?

A Justice Facility Dog is a dog that originates from an assistance dog school accredited by Assistance Dogs International, the International
Guide Dog Federation or an equivalent accreditation body.


  • Purpose-bred;

  • Trained by professional trainers;
  • Trained for 2 to 2.5 years;
  • Selected for this role based on temperament, behavior, stress resilience and non-reactionary response to environmental stressors;
  • Positively responsive to extreme emotional responses by humans.
  • The dogs have successfully completed the Assistance Dogs International public access test at time of graduation and continue to successfully pass that test throughout the course of their career.

Learn more about facility dogs and Justice Facility Dogs Canada

Justice Facility Dogs Canada follows and endorses the international best practice established by Courthouse Dogs ® Foundation in the US.  This best practice outlines the type of dog that should be utilized within the criminal justice system and the skills and characteristics that handlers should embody.

  1.      A Facility Dog obtained from an Assistance Dog School that is accredited by Assistance Dogs International, the International Guide Dog Federation or an equivalent accreditation body.
  2.      A Handler who is a criminal justice system professional trained in trauma informed practice and who takes a victim-centred approach when working with victims of crime.
  •     Professionals who work within the criminal justice system.
  •     May be victim support workers, prosecutors, police officers, counsellors/therapists, social workers, etc.
  •     Trained in trauma-informed practice and who takes a victim-centred approach when utilizing a Facility Dog with victims of crime.
  •     An effective communicator.
  • Calm, stable dog behavior sets a tone for the space when meeting a client;
  • Facility dogs may assist people who struggle to talk.  They help reduce negative stress responses, help people to function better cognitively which assists victims in their ability to effectively communicate.
  • Facility Dogs provide cathartic & healing touch where human responders cannot.
  • Facility Dogs normalize traumatic situations.
  • Facility Dogs draw out healthy emotions.
  • Facility Dogs may reduce blood pressure & lower heart rates.
  • Facility Dogs may calm agitated persons, reduce anxiety & extreme/uncontrolled emotion.

Researchers have learned that dogs can have a positive neurochemical effect on persons affected by trauma.  When individual’s sympathetic nervous systems are activated by traumatic events they often experience a subsequent surge of the hormone cortisol.  While cortisol has positive properties, it also has negative ones. Primarily speaking, cortisol may negatively impact an individual’s cognitive capacities.  This may result a person struggling to communicate, difficulty remembering and recalling information and trouble with focus and concentration, among other things.  Merely looking at a dog, let alone interacting with one can result in the “oxytocin effect”. When interacting with dogs, the human body may produce another hormone called oxytocin.  Oxytocin is often referred to as the “love drug” or “love hormone”. It is associated with people feeling comforted, connected to others, cared for, etc. Oxytocin also provides the added benefit of counteracting cortisol and positively impacting individuals cognitive functioning.

  •        Crisis Intervention
  •        Client Meetings
  •        Agency walk-throughs
  •        Forensic Interviews
  •        Hospital Examinations
  •        Pre-Trial Interviews
  •        Court Orientation
  •        Court Waiting
  •        Court Accompaniment
  •        Large-Scale Disaster/Crime Response – link to vignette – Caber and Route 91 Shooting
  •        Courage Celebrations
  •       With persons who have fears, phobias, allergies to dogs.
  •       Persons actively using drugs (opioids are of specific concern).
  •       Persons with unpredictable/unsafe behaviours.
  •       When other animals are present.
  •       Unsafe environments.
  •       Handlers should be mindful of cultural factors or cultural/religious circumstances where the presence of a dog may not be welcome or respectable.

Handlers are encouraged to always seek client permission first and ensure that dog introductions are handled with caution.

JFDC began in 2016 to provide support to agencies researching and initiating new Facility Dog programs. Today JFDC does the following:

  • Shares best practices, policies and procedures with agencies starting facility dog programs;
  • Assists Crown & Police in locating Facility Dog teams;
  • Establishes support from professional bodies, i.e. Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime;
  • Manages a database of Canadian criminal court decisions/case law;
  • Mentors & supports new Canadian teams;
  • Provides advocacy & education across Canada

JFDC future goals include:

  • Becoming a national charity;
  • Developing federal legislation that directly supports the use of facility dogs in the Canadian criminal justice system;
  • Developing an international crisis response facility dog team capable of responding to large scale crisis’ across Canada and beyond.
  • Lay Therapy Dogs/Family Pets

  • Rescues or from Breeders
  • No standardized training/testingNo standardized training/testing
  • No public access when trainingNo public access when training
  • No standardization for duration of trainingNo standardization for duration of training
  • Not selected for roleNot selected for role
  • No “working dog” liability insuranceNo “working dog” liability insurance
  • No temperament standardsNo temperament standards
  • No standardized stress testingNo standardized stress testing
  • Work duration can be as minimal as 15 minutesWork duration can be as minimal as 15 minutes
  • No work specific testingNo work specific testing
  • No ethical training standardsNo ethical training standards
  • No public etiquette standardsNo public etiquette standards
  • No handler requirements, can be volunteerNo handler requirements, can be volunteer
  • No deployment standardsNo deployment standards
  • No dog hygiene standardsNo dog hygiene standards
  • Accredited Facility Dogs

  • Purpose-Bred
  • No standardized training/testingTraining, assessment and testing standards
  • No public access when trainingPublic access when training
  • No standardization for duration of trainingTrained for 2.5 years (approx.)
  • Not selected for roleSelected specifically for role, 40-50% of assistance dogs do NOT graduate into role
  • No “working dog” liability insuranceInsured by ADI school and placement agency, not owned by handler
  • No temperament standardsMust be low energy, have a calm and stable temperament and exceptional obedience
  • No standardized stress testingTested for high degree of stress resilience
  • Work duration can be as minimal as 15 minutesCan work for hours at a time, dogs have high degree of resiliency and handlers are trained to recognize dog stress and manage it accordingly
  • No work specific testingTested for comfort with extreme emotions, loud sounds, emotional outbursts, people dressed in uniform, sirens, tested in courtrooms, interview rooms
  • No ethical training standardsNo prong collars, no shock collars, no ear pinching
  • No public etiquette standardsMany public etiquette standards
  • No handler requirements, can be volunteerHandler is a criminal justice system professional with trauma informed practice training
  • No deployment standardsBest practices from Courthouse Dogs ® Foundation and Justice Facility Dogs Canada
  • No dog hygiene standardsRequirements for dog hygiene

Justice Facility Dog Spotlight

Justice Facility Dogs are real heroes every day. Here are just a few of their amazing stories.


Milan and her handler, Vivian, were scheduled to support a young client at a trial.  The case took a long 3 years to get to trial.  On day one of the trial the youth had to anxiously wait all day long while other matters were being dealt with in the courtroom.  Milan [...]


Facility Dog, Lucca, and his handler, Sue, were requested to attend the scene of a fatal workplace accident. The incident involved a City of Vancouver work crew who were pruning trees when a large tree branch fell on one of the crew members, killing him instantly. Not only did the crew witness [...]

Read more incredible stories on our blog

Where do Justice Facility Dogs work across Canada and where can you go to get a Justice Facility Dog?

This interactive map will show you where dogs are working across Canada and where are the Assistance Dogs International Schools located who train and place Facility Dogs.