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Press Release Detail

Miami-Dade Therapy Dog “Justice” Earns Certification


July 16, 2013



Meghan Speakes Collins


(850) 544-5387    


Miami, FLA--- Famed Southern columnist Lewis Grizzard once wrote that while looking at a dog you could see the love and loyalty pouring out of them, and as long as you have that “there was a very little the human race could do to harm your self-esteem.” 

This motto was seemingly instilled in the Miami-Dade Regional Juvenile Detention Center (MDRJDC) back in January when they acquired Justice; the first pet therapy canine to serve within a Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility.

On June 29, Justice officially passed his certification exams with flying colors and is now an official Pet Therapy Dog and Canine Good Citizen, and while his certification has just been made official, he’s been making a difference in the lives of the residents of the MDRJDC for the last seven months.

DJJ Secretary Wansley Walters said that therapy dogs like Justice help youth housed in detention centers work through their personal issues. “Many of youth in our care had difficult, sometimes painful, relationships with other people prior to entering the juvenile justice system,” Walters said. “In addition to traditional therapies, we are proud to offer pet therapy to help youth cope with the emotions youth experience while in detention and away from their families. Studies have indicated dogs not only have the ability to listen, also provide people with the feeling of unconditional empathetic non-verbal feedback.”

Justice is a part of the pilot program known as Canine Comfort and is the first dog to become a member of a juvenile detention facility in the state, and Walters’s plans to provide other facilities with 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.”

Negron’s sentiments have been echoed by many of the youth at the MDRJDC. One youth said, “Justice has helped me become more outgoing and stress free. Even though we are secured, when we go outside to play with Justice I feel a bit of freedom.”

Another youth said, “I was going crazy when they brought me out with Justice. It made me feel unstressed and helped me forget about all the crazy things I had on my mind.”

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.