A new bill that was signed into law in Illinois will allow for a canine therapy assistant to be present in the courtroom. The dog is to be present to comfort crime victims, especially for children who suffer from child abuse or exploitation, or for someone who is developmentally disabled. The dog is there to lessen the stress and comfort individuals, as trials and testifying on the stand can be very traumatic, according to Life With Dogs.
Mitchel the yellow Labrador retriever is a member of the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office. He turns heads wherever he goes and draws many people to pet him. But that’s the point, as he is there to make the courtroom experience less stressful. The two-year-old dog’s primary job is to provide solace to children at the Lake County Children’s Advocacy Center. Last year, the Children’s Advocacy Center, operated by the state’s attorney’s office, handled 681 local child abuse cases. Child victims of sexual and physical abuse are interviewed and prepared for possible trial appearances at the Center, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Officials anticipate that state legislation will soon permit Mitchel in courtrooms on a limited basis. A comfort dog like him can give a sense of security to children in trial settings. Mitchel’s primary handlers are Assistant State’s Attorney Jason Grindel, a member of the office’s Specialized Victims Division, and James Magna, a special investigator with the state’s attorney’s office. On Wednesday, Assistant Lake County State’s Attorney Steve DeRue volunteered to take him outside for a walk.
Grindel, who spends about a quarter of his time at the Advocacy Center, when he is not in the courtroom, has indicated that Mitchel has been a good fit for the center since the dog’s arrival two months ago. He stated that the children have responded positively to the canine’s presence. Only children who like dogs and who want one present have Mitchel comfort them. Children are at ease with interviews after Mitchel helps break the ice, Grindel said, noting that the dog has the following qualifications necessary, as reported in the Chicago Tribune.
“He’s playful, compassionate, and intuitive.”
Mitchel is fully trained and obeys commands from those he works with, including children. The comfort dogs take about two years to train. Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers are often used as comfort dogs, also known as “facility dogs.” State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim supports the program and stated the following, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“When these children come in to be interviewed, it can be incredibly stressful. A lot of thought and care goes into making that process as comfortable as possible for our victims. The presence of a highly-trained dog is one tool that will undoubtedly help some children through this process.”
In another courthouse, an unofficial therapy dog roams the halls. The neglected Mikey the blind pug was adopted by a judge who brings him to work with her. Mikey provides comfort to those who pet him, according to an article in the Inquisitr.
[Photo Courtesy Saving North Chicago Animals’ Facebook Page]