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Court Dog Comforts Abused Children

Macy is able to help children when no one else can. They love her. They bond with her almost immediately. She gives them comfort, picks...

Maria Goodavage  |  Feb 23rd 2011


Macy is able to help children when no one else can. They love her. They bond with her almost immediately. She gives them comfort, picks up items they dropped, helps them talk about what happened to them, and makes all the difference when it’s their day in court.

That’s a pretty good day’s work for a dog.

Macy, a Lab-golden mix trained by Canine Companions for Independence, is the newest employee at the Smith County (Texas) District Attorney’s Office. Her specialty: consoling abused children as they deal with the stressful court process. It can be grueling for children to have to talk about abuse and other crimes against them, but Macy is right there, providing gentle comfort as only a nonjudgmental, calm creature can.

“I think her worth would be immeasurable because she does things we humans can’t do,” April Sikes, Assistant District Attorney, told KLTV.

Last week, during a trial for the aggravated sexual assault of a child, Macy was intent on doing what she does best being a comfort to little ones who need a helping paw. According to KYTX, “she sat at the feet of one of the child victims in the case with her big, brown eyes intently searching the girl’s face as the petted her on the head.”

Silkes says Macy’s soothing skills and ability to “listen” will play an invaluable role in helping prosecutors put away people who commit crimes against children.

“A prosecutor’s job is to seek justice and try to ascertain the truth and I think the best shot at that is when Macy brings that comfort to a child where they feel like maybe they want to tell her what happened or maybe that can get that reassurance from Macy when they testify from the stand,” Sikes said.

Every courthouse should have a Macy. Thanks to an organization called Courthouse Dogs, more courtrooms are getting dogs like Macy. Courthouse Dogs, based in Washington state, provides training for legal professionals and advocates the use of dogs to provide emotional support to witnesses testifying in court cases.

According to the Courthouse Dogs website:

Since 2003 courthouse dogs have provided comfort to sexually abused children while they undergo forensic interviews and testify in court. The dogs also assist drug court participants in their recovery, visit juveniles in detention facilities, greet jurors and lift the spirits of courthouse staff who often conduct their business in an adversarial setting.

Courthouse dogs assist individuals with physical, psychological, or emotional trauma due to criminal conduct; these dogs should be professionally trained to service dog standards by an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International.

The use of courthouse dogs can help bring about a major change in how we meet the emotional needs of all involved in the criminal justice system. The dogs calming presence creates a more humane and efficient system that enables judges, lawyers, and staff to accomplish their work in a more positive and constructive manner.

Just more proof that dogs truly are humans’ best friends…