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Association of Prosecuting Attorneys

Kentucky Prosecutor Using Therapy Dogs to Help Victims

May 17, 2012
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The commonwealth's attorney's office in Jefferson County says it will use specially-trained therapy dogs to ease the court experience for young victims and witnesses. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Josh Schneider is leading the program. Schneider tells The Courier-Journal that similar programs are gaining popularity across the nation, but he is unaware of another one in Kentucky. Schneider said it is unlikely that the dogs will be allowed in the courtroom, but they will be brought to the courthouse where they can sit with victims in a waiting room before and after they go into court to testify. "Everyone I have talked to has had amazing results with this," Schneider said. "This is a trend everyone is going towards across the nation." The dogs go through at least a year of training and are able to follow commands, such as shaking hands, playing and lying down to be petted, said Linda Laun of W.A.G.S. (Wonderful Animals Giving Support) Pet Therapy of Kentucky. The organization also advocates using therapy pets in other facilities such as nursing homes, hospitals and schools. "For a lot of children ... they will tell the dogs things they wouldn't tell a person," Laun said. "It's amazing." Laun said she had a child open up about being abused after asking her if she would ever abuse her dog for misbehaving. "It's an entry that puts everyone more at ease," she said, adding that the dogs' main talents are "love and acceptance." Schneider said the animals will be used to establish a better rapport with children and to put them more at ease with the court system.