Cocoa police K-9 Copper, handler receive training for traumatic situations

Brevard County program offers therapy dog training

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

COCOA, Fla. - Who’s a good boy? Cocoa police K-9 Copper is a very good boy.

Copper and his handler, police Officer Chris Hattaway trained this week with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Paws and Stripes program.

Once the pair complete the training Copper will be part of a national registry of therapy dogs used to assist crime victims.

The 8-month-old coonhound and the other dogs in the program learned obedience techniques and protocols that can be used during traumatic situations, Cocoa police said.

“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, with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Paw and Stripes program. 

Hattaway said when he and Copper go to scenes where a child is involved he lets Copper do all the comforting, breaking down barriers between law enforcement officers and citizens.

“I have no part in it other than to be with Copper as he interacts with the child,” Hattaway said. “Copper is helping us bridge the gap.”

A therapy dog could be especially helpful in situations where a person has never had any interaction with the police or a child who is afraid to talk.

“It allows (victims) to tell their story without being stressed over and over,” Holton said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently signed a bill into law that would expand the use of therapy dogs in the court system involving child abuse, abandonment and neglect.

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