Cocoa Police Department’s K-9 ‘Copper’ Trains To Become Therapy Dog

By  //  May 18, 2017

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The Cocoa Police Department’s newest canine is spending this week in training to become a therapy dog. (Cocoa PD Image)

BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA – The Cocoa Police Department’s newest canine is spending this week in training to become a therapy dog.

K9 Copper and handler, Officer Chris Hattaway are working with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Paws and Stripes program to enable the team to become part of a national registry for therapy dogs.

The dogs are used to assist crime victims, especially children who have been victims of abuse.

“When we have to go out an interview kids who have been traumatized, bringing the dog allows them to get put back in their own environment and it allows them to think better, and allows them to provide better statements and it gives us better evidence,” said Dr. Jessie Holton of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Paw and Stripes program.

“What it does is it changes the justice system for child victims and even traumatized individuals like domestic violence, elderly victims; it allows them to tell their story without being stressed over and over.”

During the weeklong training the canine teams will learn specific obedience techniques, legal procedures and protocols for using therapy dogs and techniques for interviews and public interaction among other skills.

“In an interview with a child, we will both go together,” said K9 Officer Chris Hattaway.

“I have no part in it other than to be with copper as he interacts with the child. Copper is helping us bridge the gap. Whether it’s the first time victim that’s never had any interaction with the police or ever been able to tell their story, or a child in a school that’s afraid to have an interaction with the police officer, a person in public that would not normally engage the police department; Copper is helping us break all those barriers.”

Last week Governor Rick Scott signed new legislation to expand the use of therapy dogs in court proceedings.

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The new law allows children, victims and individuals with intellectual disability to use therapy animals and facility dogs in legal proceedings involving child abuse, abandonment and neglect.

K9 Copper is an 8-month-old black and tan coonhound donated to the Cocoa Police Department in February by Cynthia Drake Owens at Oak Hill Kennels in Oxford, North Carolina. He is assigned to the Community Resource Unit.

In addition to being a registered therapy dog, Copper will be used for tracking and drug detection once he is fully trained.

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