FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A Broward County judge honored therapy dogs who are brought into the courtroom with the purpose of comforting children during dependency hearings.

Broward Circuit Court Judge Hope Bristol presided over the ceremony for the canines and their handlers, Wednesday. The honorees received certificates of appreciation.

“We want to thank you guys. This day is for you,” said Bristol.

The ceremony marked the fifth anniversary of the Therapy Dog Program, which started as a pilot program.

Back in 2013, the nonprofit organization Canine Assisted Therapy teamed up with Broward courts and the Humane Society to help create stress-fee court appearances for children who are dealing with tough situations.

During dependency hearings, children are allowed to sit with the dogs and pet them.

“So when kids come in, they see these wonderful, cuddly little dogs, and they feel so much better,” said Bristol, “and the stress they have coming to court has really reduced.”

Broward County’s court system is one of the few in the country that uses dogs to help create a more relaxing situation.

The volunteers and their dogs undergo a thorough screening process before they can be a part of the program.

In court, the handler will introduce the dog to the child during a dependancy hearing. Then the child takes over from there.

“It’s made such a difference for these families that come here,” said Bristol. “We’re so thankful to have these great dogs and their handlers here.”

Canine Assisted Therapy currently has five dogs in the program. Court officials said the dogs seem to sense when they’re needed and when a child just wants to be left alone.

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