The University of Central Florida Police Department welcomed a furry new addition to its team in November. Paisley, a treeing walker coonhound, is the first-ever therapy dog to join the department. Alongside her partner, Detective Matthew Scott, Paisley will serve victims of violent crimes, such as sexual assault and stalking.
Therapy dogs are a new initiative within law enforcement. Their purpose is to comfort individuals who have experienced trauma, helping them to relax during police interviews and ensuring they are not re-victimized during the process.
“She’s going to play a large part, I think, in really helping victims cope with anything they’ve been through,” Scott says. “I’m still a detective, but I have a tool that I’m going to employ to hopefully really break down those walls that the victim is going to erect.”
Paisley’s training began with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office’s Paws & Stripes program, which gives inmates the opportunity to socialize rescue dogs. After passing a test to make sure she was friendly and non-aggressive, Paisley learned obedience and basic commands from trained female inmates.
After graduating from Paws & Stripes, Paisley and her partner took a 40-hour course that taught them how to work as a team to help victims of any crime. Scott also learned how to properly handle both Paisley and the victim in a question-answer setting.
Their time together doesn’t end when their shift is over. Paisley lives at home with Scott, allowing them to create a deeper bond.
“Everything she does is cute, until she wakes you up with that baying at 3 o’clock in the morning,” he jokes. “Then it’s not so cute anymore.”
Scott previously worked with the UCFPD canine unit. He hopes to use Paisley and all her loveable traits to connect with the victims in ways he cannot.
The duo is still waiting to get nationally registered as a therapy dog team so they can begin their work. But Scott says Paisley has been making a difference in and around the office.
“Just her walking around, her baying and running around and acting cute, from the officers to the dispatchers to everyone else that works in the building, they love her, and I hope to elicit that same kind of reaction from the victim,” Scott says.
Although the UCFPD is focusing on using Paisley to help crime victims, she can serve as a therapy dog in other ways, too. She will also be going to children’s hospitals and nursing homes to bring joy to people who are fighting battles of their own.
Scott hopes to see more therapy dogs at stations in the future. He says, “This really is the first step, and we want to be as busy and as helpful and as proactive as we can be.”