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Courtroom canine wins excellence award

Dixie Sulda, May 11, 2021 6:30PM The Advertiser

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Zero with handler Darren Evans on May 10th, 2021, outside the Supreme Court in Adelaide. Picture: Tom Huntley. media_cameraZero with handler Darren Evans on May 10th, 2021, outside the Supreme Court in Adelaide. Picture: Tom Huntley.

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He’s the first South Australian dog to win an official state government award, and for good reason.

Zero, the court companion dog, spends his days pattering* around courtrooms as a friendly and furry support for those testifying in sensitive cases — and he has now been awarded for his duties.

The four-year-old labrador became the first dog to receive the SA Premier’s Excellence Award for public sector values, in recognition of his commitment to service, professionalism, trust, respect, courage and tenacity*.

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman said Zero embodied* the values of the award.

“Zero has helped more than 100 vulnerable* victims* or witnesses*, both during meetings and in the courtroom,” Ms Chapman said.

“He is able to pick up on their distress and then provide support in subtle ways, such as leaning into them, sitting by their feet, or looking at them.”

Zero the court companion dog and his handler media_cameraZero the court companion dog, outside the Supreme Court in Adelaide. Picture: Tom Huntley.

The court companion dog has assisted people preparing for hearings since 2018, but legislation* introduced last September now allows Zero to come with them into the courtroom.

“He has become a crucial* and much-loved member of the team, who embodies the values of the premier’s excellence awards,” Ms Chapman said.

Zero’s handler, prosecutor* Darren Evans, said at home the dog was playful, fun and loving – the same qualities he shows in court as a companion.

“He’s had a massive impact on vulnerable victims, particularly children,” Mr Evans said.

He said he was happy to see Zero receive an award.

“It was pretty wild … everyone was fawning* over him and playing all morning.”

Originally set to become a guide dog, Zero’s duties are part of an initiative of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in partnership with Guide Dogs SA/NT.

GLOSSARY

  • pattering: running with quick, light steps
  • tenacity: determination
  • embodied: a visible form of a quality, idea or feeling
  • vulnerable: in need of special care, support and protection
  • victim: a person harmed as a result of crime, accident or other event
  • witness: someone who sees an event, crime or accident happen
  • legislation: laws
  • crucial: vital, necessary, important
  • prosecutor: conducts the case against the defendant in a criminal court
  • fawning: display of affection

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What is the name of the award given to Zero?
  2. How many people has Zero helped so far?
  3. What has Zero been able to do since a change in legislation in September 2020?
  4. How does his handler describe Zero’s behaviour at home?
  5. What was Zero going to be before he became a court companion?

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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Companion Dogs
Zero has proved to help many vulnerable people when they go into court, which can be a scary place for a lot of people. Companion dogs are also used for people with illnesses and for general comfort and support.

Work with a partner and brainstorm a list of people or situations where a companion dog like Zero could help people feel more comfortable, at ease, and supported.

Create a two-column table. Name the column on the left, ‘Person or Place’. Create a corresponding column on the right, headed ‘How a companion dog could help?’

Think of at least five situations where a companion dog could be helpful.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and creative thinking, Personal and social

2. Extension
Explain in a brief paragraph what you think the differences are between an official ‘service’ dog (such as a guide dog) and a companion dog?

Do you think companion dogs should be legally allowed in all public places like a service dog is?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and creative thinking, Personal and social

VCOP ACTIVITY
1. Summarise the article
A summary is a brief statement of the main points of something. It does not usually include extra detail or elaborate on the main points.

Use the 5W & H model to help you find the key points of this article. Read the article carefully to locate who and what this article is about, and where, when, why and how this is happening. Once you have located this information in the article, use it to write a paragraph that summarises the article.

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