As a part of the community outreach program of The Animal League, Companions for Courage is 501(c)(3) non-profit organization made up of volunteer teams comprising of a handler and a special Therapy Dog that are there to “help make the sad things seem not so bad”. The volunteers and their dogs help to give courage to child victims by escorting them into the courtroom where the dog sits with the child in the witness box. If the child becomes nervous or uncomfortable, they can pat their Companion or rub them with their feet.
Sometimes it’s hard to speak to a room full of strangers, so they can look at their Companion, as long as the people in the courtroom can hear them speak. Companions for Courage dogs have been evaluated and been labeled as being “bomb proof”, meaning these dogs do not react to loud noises, sudden movement, or other distractions. Their focus is to be a Companion, or best friend for their child, and nothing else.
We have other dogs that will assist children in counseling sessions at the Children’s Advocacy Center. The Companions for Courage dogs help to relax the children that come into the Center and have to talk about things they would rather not talk about. The Companions for Courage dogs are the best secret keepers and the children know that their secret will not go any further than the walls of the room or the ears of their Companion.
Our teams are also available to sit in during depositions with the child. This is another place where the dogs help these children to relax. Our handlers sign a confidentiality agreement to ensure all statements remain confidential.
The Companions for Courage Dogs are there for virtually any child in need – whether it be in a hospital room, a counseling center, or even a shelter, our teams are ready to visit. We even make special visits to schools and children’s events.
Companions for Courage is an all-volunteer organization, and as such, all of our services are provided free of charge.
"Helping to make the sad things not so bad"
"Helping to make the sad things not so bad" Did you ever wonder where our tagline comes from? It came from a letter from one of the very first children that our founder, Woolf, helped. In the letter, the child thanks Woolf and gives him his St Christopher medal. This was the beginning of Companions for Courage.
We'd like to give special thanks to our friends, supporters, and partners.
Companions for Courage is a division of The Animal League. The Animal League is an animal welfare organization providing:
- rescue, rehabilitation, and adoption of homeless pets.
- affordable veterinary care for cats and dogs.
- humane education programs for children.
- pet food for those in need.
Companions for Courage provides animal-assisted therapy to children at the Lake Sumter Children’s Advocacy Center. Children interact with our Companions so that they may feel safe and secure in the counseling environment. We provide Companion support to children during interviews and counseling sessions.
The K9th Circuit Program was established under the direction of Judge Turner. Judge Turner saw the need for children to feel a sense of security while undergoing forensic interviews or testifying in court. The dogs may also be used for adult victims of violent offenses, those who are mentally or emotionally challenged, or whenever the court needs to take a more therapeutic approach.
The Ninth Circuit is the first Florida circuit to utilize both pet therapy dog teams and a professionally trained, ADA certified dog and its handler. All pet therapy dogs and their owners must be TDI certified members of Companions for Courage, currently the only provider approved to work in the Ninth Circuit.
The Therapy Dog program was established under the direction of the Chief Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit. The Chief Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit has permitted the use of therapy dogs to assist victim witnesses associated with sexual assault and other traumatic proceedings including family court or dependency and Termination of Parental Rights proceedings.
Dr. Tracie Wilson is a founding member of Companions for Courage. Her career in veterinary medicine began in 1989 when she began classes for veterinary technicians at St. Petersburg Junior College. Dr. Wilson graduated with an A.S. in Veterinary Technology in 1991 and began working in the small animal field. As the profession grew and evolved, she found herself teaching for a while at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine, working in the anesthetic department teaching junior veterinary students the art of anesthesia.
Upon arriving back in Florida, Dr. Wilson attended the University of Central Florida in Orlando while working at the Daytona Beach Animal Emergency Clinic. She studied pre-vet classes locally then moved to Tennessee to accept a job at the veterinary college in Knoxville while she finished her undergrad studies. Dr. Wilson taught and worked in the Intensive Care Ward while taking classes over on the main campus. After completing the course work she attended the veterinary college at the University of Tennessee.
Dr. Wilson graduated from the University of Tennessee, College of Veterinary Medicine in 2004 and took a job in central Kentucky. She worked as an associate veterinarian in Danville Kentucky for six years before finding her way back to Florida.
Here in Florida, Dr. Wilson worked as an associate vet for a year while she geared up to open her own office. She chose the Eustis area because the community and the people were very welcoming and supportive of a new enterprise. Her practice, the Animal Medical Center of Eustis, is a full service small animal hospital – where she specializes in TLC!
- CFC—Companions for Courage
- AVMA – American Veterinary Medical Association
- FVMA – Florida Veterinary Medical Association
- VECCS – Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society
- HSVMA – Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association
- Lake Eustis Area Chamber of Commerce