Fresno County DA's Office welcoming dogs in court to help take the stress out of testifying

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The Fresno County DA's Office is welcoming canines into courtrooms as a way to offer some support on the witness stand. (KFSN)

The Fresno County DA's Office is welcoming canines into courtrooms as a way to offer some support on the witness stand.

Yoshi and Sasha are just two of the trained dogs who will be spending time on the witness stand and helping to calm nerves. It's all thanks to a partnership with Therapy Dogs International.

"A lot of times little kids don't relate to adults as well as they do to animals, so dogs sit with them to make life a little easier," said Lisa Smittcamp, Fresno County DA.

The Fresno County DA's Office heard of the success other counties had with programs like this and wanted to test it out here. On his first try Tuesday, a dog named Rusty came to the rescue. Sitting on the witness stand for three hours with a young victim.

"There was a time during proceedings when a child cried. Having a dog there was a sense of comfort and the dog licked his face and it was comforting to him," said Smittcamp.

These are all dogs who have undergone intense training to be qualified to take the stand.

Sasha is a three-year-old with quite the resume. She's a reading dog at local libraries and helps children at the Family Healing Center, and volunteers at a local nursing home. Simply put-- she's a people person.

"If a child is crying. She is just a kisser she wants to be on their lap. She snuggles and the kids love to pet her," said Barbara Handly, Therapy Dogs International.

Handlers with Therapy Dogs International are volunteering their time for this service and as the program expands, more volunteers will be needed.

"It's an incredible thing and something we are thankful to have," said Smittcamp. "If it wasn't for the handlers we wouldn't have the dogs here."

"That's the important thing-- if it helps to have a dog they should have it," said Handly.
Related Topics:
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