Dogs being trained to assist in the courtroom

Posted at: 03/10/2014 6:40 PM
By: Lauren Hansard, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A Roswell courthouse welcomed a new employee Monday afternoon.

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, right?

How about a new employee that has four legs and likes to be scratched behind the ears?

“It works,” said CASA Executive Director Carrie-Leigh Cloutier. “It is crazy how court house dogs works.  These dogs are specially trained facility dogs, trained for two years.  They’re trained since birth very intensely. They have up to 100 commands.”

Cloutier said dogs belong in the courtroom.

They help make victims of traumatic crimes more comfortable.

“We see people who have been horrifically abused, children and adults, who totally shut down until Emma arrives on the scene and is there to comfort them," said Cloutier.

And more willing to testify.

“And they reduce trauma. So when a child has been so abused they have to testify against their abuser in court and the trauma may be so horrific that they can't do it, when a dog is sitting beside them with their head in their lap, all of the brain structure changes,” said Cloutier. “It calms them down, they're able to testify.  We're able to prosecute, and trauma is just almost eliminated.  It is a beautiful thing to watch.”

Three years ago, the Chaves County courthouse welcomed Emma.

Last year they got Moose.

And Monday afternoon they welcomed Max.

The program said adding another dog is just a sign that the program is working.  The director says courtroom officials are asking for more dogs."

“The judges love it, the district attorney loves it.  It's so effective and there is so much need, we could have ten dogs working in this community," said Cloutier.