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JoAnna Lou
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NYC Gets a Courtroom Dog
Staten Island’s DA is the first in the city to employ a canine
Bronksey and District Attorney Daniel Donovan.

I can’t imagine how stressful it is for victims to testify in court. But if I had to do it one day, I know my pets would help me through the ordeal. Numerous studies have shown that animals have a calming effect on people, so it seems only natural to use dogs in these cases.

Last year New York’s first judicially approved courtroom dog helped a girl testify against her father in a rape case. At the time it caused a lot of controversy, but more and more people are realizing how important these trained canines are for those on the stand.

This month, District Attorney Daniel Donovan became the first New York City prosecutor to employ a courtroom comfort dog—a Black Labrador/Golden Retriever mix named Bronksey.

"As a prosecutor, I feel obligated to do everything I can to make it easier for victims, who must constantly relive what was likely the most physically, psychologically and emotionally traumatizing experience of their lives," Donovan says.

"There is something magical about the presence or touch of a loving dog that helps victims forget their pain and fear, if just for a moment, and be able to concentrate on moving forward and healing."

The two-year old dog, donated by Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), has already made a difference.

Last week a 12-year old boy was waiting to testify against his alleged abuser to a Staten Island Grand Jury and was visibly anxious. When Bronksey approached, the boy immediately smiled and had an easier time relaying his story in court.

Currently 16 states use courtroom dogs. Hopefully more cities will consider adding these valuable working pups to support victims.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by the Richmond County DA.

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