The South Australian government has recognised the state’s first court companion dog, Zero, as a certified Good Boy by awarding him the Premier’s Excellence Award for Public Sector Values.
The award acknowledged Zero’s commitment to service, professionalism, trust, respect, courage and tenacity, according to attorney-general Vickie Chapman.
“Zero has helped more than 100 vulnerable victims or witnesses, both during meetings and in the courtroom,” she said on Tuesday.
“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. He helps vulnerable victims and witnesses relax, during what can often be a very difficult time.”
Zero joined the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in 2019, where he has given witnesses emotional support during meetings, reducing their anxiety and distress. Legislation was passed in December that has allowed Zero to accompany vulnerable witnesses in court.
Chapman thanked Zero’s handler Darren Evans as well as the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for looking after him.
“He has become a crucial and much-loved member of the team, who embodies the values of the Premier’s Excellence Awards,” she said.
“Zero is a very hard worker. While he may get an extra treat in his bowl tonight, tomorrow he’ll be back helping those who need him,” Evans added.
The Canine Court Companion project is an initiative of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, in partnership with Guide Dogs SA/NT.