First ever pet therapy dog helps incarcerated youth work through their problems

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Dogs are known as man’s best friend and a black lab named Justice is proving that old saying true once again.

Justice is the first pet therapy dog making rounds at Miami juvenile detention centers to help teens.

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The Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center acquired Justice back in January but it June, the dog officially passed his certification exams with flying colors and is now an official Pet Therapy Dog and Canine Good Citizen.

While his certification has just been made official, he’s been making a difference in the lives of the teens at the detention center for the last seven month.

Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary Wansley Walters says many teens in detention centers have been through trauma and painful relationships before entering the system. She says therapy dogs like Justice provide teens with unconditional empathetic non-verbal feedback.

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Justice is part of the Canine Comfort pilot program and is the first dog to become a member of a juvenile detention facility in the state. More detention centers are slated to receive certified therapy dogs in the coming months.

Dr. Gladys Negron, South Region Detention Director, is a champion of this cause. “Animals can play an important role in adolescent development,” Negron said. “They can become a source of love, companionship and responsibility which helps smooth the transition from childhood through adulthood.”

One youth said playing with Justice “made me feel unstressed and helped me forget about all the crazy things I had on my mind.”

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Justice received training from Miami Dog Whisperer Richard Heinz and personal dog trainer Oscar Anzueto. He came to the MDRJDC by way of the Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Wellington.