Roanoke Valley getting courthouse dog - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

Roanoke Valley getting courthouse dog

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ROANOKE, VA - A courthouse facility dog will be joining the Children's Trust staff to assist children and their families during the investigation and prosecution of crimes.

This is Molly, who has the same training as a service dog, but she is a facility dog.

"It's intimidating. You have your a accused offender a few feet sitting from you, sometimes there's a jury in the room so it's very difficult for them to retell in detail what happened to them. Sometimes they're just not able to do it and they freeze up and they're not able to talk. Having a dog we hope will lessen the times when that occurs," said Beth Eisenzimmer, a Children's Trust family advocate.

Currently there are 60 courthouse dogs working in 23 states.

Children's Trust is hopeful to have a dog placed with them in the upcoming year.

Judges have the authority to allow the dog in the courtroom. The dog can be completely concealed by the witness box so as not to influence the jury.

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News release from Children's Trust:
Facility dogs are specially bred and trained graduates of accredited assistance dog organizations. These dogs have similar training as a service dog but are handled by a professional to assist many clients. Courthouse facility dogs are specially selected to work in a high stress environment because of their very composed demeanor and confidence.

Scientific research shows that a relaxed dog reduces stress in humans. Courthouse dogs are primarily used to provide a sense of calm to anxious witnesses and victims during the investigation and prosecution of crimes. They also facilitate the fact finding process because a calm witness is better able to describe a traumatic event to a judge or jury.

Currently there are 60 courthouse facility dogs working in 23 states. Children’s Trust has applied and been approved through St. Francis and will also apply through Canine Companions for Independence. We are hopeful to have a dog placed with our agency in the coming year.

Courthouse Dogs Foundation founder Ellen O’Neill-Stephens , a retired senior deputy prosecuting attorney, and Executive Director Celeste Walsen DVM are coming from Washington State to educate judges, attorneys, victim advocates, law enforcement, forensic nurses, mental health and the public about how these specially trained facility dogs are being used to help victims and witnesses within the criminal justice system.

For more information about how these wonderful dogs make the criminal justice system more humane visit www.courthousedogs.org .
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