Meet Milan, Manitoba's canine comfort for victims of crime
Manitoba has welcomed a calm, furry and four-legged assistant to provide comfort for victims of crime during the court process.
"The newest member of our team will help support victims when they need it most, when they're feeling anxious or scared and need a comforting presence," Justice Minister Heather Stefanson said Friday while introducing Milan, a three-year-old black Labrador retriever.
"We are incredibly proud to welcome Milan to Manitoba, and know she will be a trusted friend for people who are dealing with extremely difficult and emotionally challenging situations while their matters proceed through court."
Milan has specialized training from the Pacific Assistance Dog Society (PADS) and offers support to victims during meetings with Crown attorneys. She will also visit the Victim/Witness Assistance office at the Manitoba Law Courts to support people attending court, and will assist children at the child-friendly waiting room at court and at Snowflake Place for Children and Youth.
"We're very proud of Milan and her handler because they make an exceptional team and have worked very hard to bring this program to Manitoba," said Laura Watamanuk, executive director of the British Columbia-based PADS.
"Milan has prepared for over two years of her life for this role and has a very special ability to meet people on their worst day and then support their road to healing."
According to a news release from the Manitoba government, assistance dogs like Milan provide a calm and loving presence for victims who may be traumatized or dealing with difficult issues. Milan offers support through cathartic touch and reduces tension and anxiety by offering children an outlet to play during difficult meetings.
The benefits to the client include:
- Reducing blood pressure.
- Lowering stress, anxiety and aggression.
- Acting as an effective icebreaker to begin difficult conversations.
- Relaxing witnesses by elevating levels of serotonin and dopamine.
- Acting as a tool for children who may struggle to communicate.
- Providing comforting touch, especially in situations where human contact might be unwelcome.
Funding for Milan's training and other expenses was provided through the province's Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund in 2015. Annual costs, including food, equipment, supplies and pet insurance, are approximately $2,500.
She lives with her primary handler when not providing compassionate support to victims. As well, two provincial staff have received specialized training from PADS to work with Milan, Stefanson said.
British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario also use victim service dogs for victims going through the court process.