RI’s first police therapy dog to comfort victims, witnesses of violent crimes

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) —  For the first time in Rhode Island, a new therapy dog is being trained to work with victims or witnesses in cases of violent crimes.

The new canine officer is named Justice. He is a 6-month-old golden retriever-poodle mix who, by the time he is a year old, will be working closely with Providence police in the wake of violent crimes.

His owner, Carla Cuellar of Family Services of Rhode Island, works with the Providence Police Department as a police liaison. She thinks the addition of Justice will revolutionize her daily work helping victims and witnesses in the wake of crimes such as murder, sexual assault, domestic violence, suicide and human trafficking.

“We’ve seen in research that the anxiety level with therapy dogs can help calm them down and just the act of petting can help soothe them and get them nice and calm and help them discuss exactly what just transpired,” Cuellar explained.

Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements said their partnership with Family Services of Rhode Island helps pick up the pieces after investigators leave the scene of a crime.

“A therapy dog to help in Family Service’s role with Providence police will be very helpful,” Clements said. “We look forward to this partnership and we’re doing some really good things in the community.”

As for Justice, with a few more months of training, he’ll be ready to begin his new career.

“Justice will now become part of the Providence police and wear a badge,” Cuellar said. “We’ll have to have a formal ceremony where he raises his paw to wear the badge.”

Cuellar said Justice and his training were both donated through the Mutual of America Community Partnership Award.