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Iker, the Justice Facility dog, joins Courage Centre team

By Tara Clow Oct 23, 2023 | 1:17 PM

Another trained Justice Facility dog for a southeastern New Brunswick crisis centre.

Iker, who is a 19-month-old black lab golden cross, has joined the Beausejour Family Crisis Resource Centre.

The Justice Facility Dog program started almost 20 years ago in the United States. Now, there are over 50 dogs working in Canada, with three of those dogs at the Courage Centre, and a fourth at Kit’s Place in Saint John.

They come from schools that are accredited by Assistance Dog International, and their role is to provide support and calming companionship to vulnerable children and adults when they go through the criminal justice process. They are purposely bred, raised and trained at the facility. “There are schools that do lots of different types of service dogs, vision, diabetic, epilepsy, and they also do Justice Facility dogs,” says Kristal LeBlanc, Courage Centre CEO and primary handler for Iker.

Iker’s first trial was on October 12th, “It was amazing. Of course, there’s always some nerves when your facility dog is doing the first trial. But the canine, they’ve been expertly bred and trained to do this. It was a trial in Miramichi. It was a young child that testified via closed circuit TV, and she had Iker with her for her testimony,” says LeBlanc.

The dogs go right in the witness box and stay with the child or vulnerable adult while they are testifying in court.

The Courage Centre’s first accredited Justice Facility dog was Marielle. She was granted permission to provide direct testimonial support in May 2019 and has been deployed in more than 150 trials.

Jaz joined the team in October 2022 to allow for Marielle’s retirement in the coming months. With increased demand, there was a need for two accredited Justice Facility dogs actively working at one time in Southeast New Brunswick, and now Iker has joined the team. Jaz has reached over 30 deployments in one year of service.

Poet works with the Child Advocacy Centre in Saint John and she has been working there since April of this year.

This is part of a program developed in the province last year called Justice Facility Dogs New Brunswick, which supports charities and agencies primarily in New Brunswick, but LeBlanc adds they are also assisting a couple of charities in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island as well.