Courthouse dog helps children testifying in court

GEORGETOWN, SC (WBTW) – The Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office in Georgetown County is applying for a courthouse facility dog.

This facility dog is used to calm victims or witnesses when testifying during tough investigations. The solicitor’s office said having a facility dog is especially helpful when children have to do things like testify against their parents or recall a traumatic experience in front of a jury.

“Children as young as four years of age are expected to testify in court against the accused with little or no accommodation for their youth,” says the founder of Courthouse Dogs Foundation Ellen O’Neill-Stephens.The Courthouse Dogs Foundation helps companies incorporate facility dogs into their workplace.

“When these dogs are present, children feel much more safe and secure and able to explain to a jury what happened,” describes O’Neill-Stephens.

The dog comes at no cost to taxpayers. ItΒ is donated by the Canine Companions for Independence organization and comes with a $1 million liability.

Toni Friedhoff with the Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office said these dogs help defendants making pleas as well.

They calm everything,” said Friedhoff.Β “They just sit and pet a dog for a few minutes, and a lot of that anxiety disappears, so they can get up and do what they need to do.”

The court will always ask if the person is afraid of dogs before giving them the option to pet the dog or be in a room with a dog.

Friedhoff has to complete training with a dog in July, and the solicitor’s office hopes to have the dog in Georgetown and Horry counties by late August.