Prosecutors Use “Therapy Dogs” To Help Traumatized Witnesses


Prosecutors in Carroll County, Md., uses a “therapy dog” to help witnesses prepare for trial. “Well, he’s had an incredible impact on our ability to interview vulnerable witnesses and victims, especially children,” said chief county prosecutor Jerry Barnes. Assistant Prosecutor Amy Blank Ocampo says, “He absolutely has made a difference. We’ve used him for mostly young witnesses but we’ve also used him for adults that have gone through very traumatic things.” Ocampo said Buddy helps relax witnesses and gives them something else to focus on while they have to sort through often painful memories.

“Buddy’s the only one that doesn’t have an agenda,” said Joyce Schaum, the director of the Victim Witness Assistance Unit. “His job is to love them unconditionally, and be there for them.” Dogs like Buddy help put traumatized witnesses and victims at ease in about a half-dozen communities across the U.S. Some jurisdictions require that the dogs receive training and attain certification from an organizations to prepare them to work with crime victims. Organizations such as Courthouse Dogs provide information on how to start similar programs.


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