Ventura District Attorney Recruits Two Facility Dogs For Victim Support
Two service dogs have been recruited to the newly created Ventura County District Attorney’s Courthouse Facility Dog program.
The two black Labrador retrievers, ‘Star’ and ‘Trakr’ are trained to provide physical and emotional support to assist victims of crime – including during giving evidence in Court.
Star gets a treat from her handler – Supervising Senior Deputy District Attorney in Ventura County, Rachelle Dean, who says that the two-year-old facility dog works for treats.
Rachelle is the program’s founder. Star is one of two dogs trained as facility dogs who work to support children and adults in courtrooms – where stress levels are high.
"We have Star and Trakr. They are litter mates, brother and sister. They've been trained for the last two years to help in the courtroom."
She says that the dogs can provide support in a way that the others in the courtroom setting can’t – and the benefit to vulnerable victims can result in more accurate testimony.
"It's very difficult to come in and testify. Compound that with being a child and having something traumatic happen to you or that you've seen. There are all these adults in the courtroom that have a job to do, and while you have a child that is trying to go through this process of testifying, you have all these adults that can't be there for the child and they can't console the child...we have to stay neutral. That's where the dogs come in. The dogs are there just for these witnesses...it just gives them a neutral support that's there just for them.
"Studies have shown that these dogs actually help with the testimony."
They’re new to Ventura County but Courthouse facility dogs are becoming a more common resource – they’re in over 20 District Attorney’s offices in California and used in 38 states country-wide.