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Andrea L. Lockhart

2008 Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services | National Crime Victims’ Service Awards

Andrea L. Lockhart | Award for Professional Innovation in Victim Services
FLA Four Legged Advocates, Inc.
Winter Haven, Florida

Andrea Lockhart is a survivor of sexual assault. At age 17, she went through the criminal justice system alone and without knowledge that victims had rights. The experience brought about the promise that still drives her today–a promise to make a difference for victims of crime. 

After earning her bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice and working in victim services during college, Lockhart became a sexual assault counselor for children and teens in the Tampa area. She soon realized that these young victims experienced a loss of trust and comfort. 

In the aftermath of her own sexual assault, Lockhart had found great comfort in spending time with her dog, so she began bringing a service dog with her when she accompanied victims to and from counseling sessions and trials. She noticed that the presence of her canine partner helped bridge the trust barrier with these young victims and that when they trusted her canine partner, they in turn came to trust her. 

Her nontraditional method made the victims feel more comfortable and helped them see themselves as survivors rather than victims, all of which led them to be more willing to participate in the criminal justice process. 

In 2005, Lockhart established FLA Four Legged Advocates, Inc., in Polk County, Florida. This nonprofit organization provides "teams" of volunteer advocates and service dogs who assist child victims of sexual assault. Her method is now being used in other areas of the country with different ages and types of crime victims. 

Lockhart's program has received a lot of attention, most notably from then Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who called her to praise her work, sent her a letter of commendation, and even declared July 12, 2006, "FLA Four Legged Advocates, Inc., Day" in Polk County. 

Andrea Lockhart was nominated by her mother, Kim J. Lockhart, President of FLA Four Legged Advocates, Inc., Winter Haven, Florida.