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Tag: courthouse

Council hounds judge about dogs in office

ne10GGOO_t600[1]South Carolina Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein’s habit of bringing her dogs to work was never a problem in the old courthouse, but since opening a spiffy new one, Dorchester County Council members are squawking about it.

Amid rumors that there have been doggie ”accidents”  inside the shiny new $13 million courthouse in St. George, the county council — though it lacks the authority to set rules for the courthouse — has instructed the county attorney to draft a letter to the clerk of court “requesting” that animals not be allowed on the premises, except for service animals.

“The taxpayers paying for the building don’t bring their dogs to work. Other county employees don’t bring their dogs to work. Frankly, I’m surprised I’m having to make this request,” Council Chairman Jamie Feltner said.

The request leaves County Clerk of Court Cheryl Graham, a pet lover and board member of the local SPCA  in an awkward spot, the Charleston Post and Courier reported.  “That’s mighty nice of the council to put that on me,” she told the newspaper.

“It’s a little bit of an embarrassment that it would be an issue,” Judge Goodstein said. Her dogs are well-trained and haven’t soiled the courthouse’s hallowed halls, she said. She thinks the “accident” rumor might have stemmed from one day when she got down on her hands and knees to clean a construction worker’s mud tracks from the floor.

The judge, who routinely brought her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Boykin spaniel and Airedale to work with her in the old courthouse — vacated earlier this year — says she’ll comply with whatever verdict the clerk of court reaches.

And nothing but the truth, so help me dog

courthousedogsDogs aren’t just permitted in Washington state’s King County Courthouse, they work there — serving to calm the nerves of  intimidated witnesses and make their testimony flow more freely.

In addition to serving as companions for traumatized victims of child abuse who are testifying in court, the dogs are used for a variety of other courthouse purposes, according to a recent article in the Dallas Morning News.

According to the Courthouse Dogs website, dogs have been helping seek justice in Seattle since 2003.

The dogs provide comfort to sexually abused children while they undergo forensic interviews and testify in court, assist drug court participants in their recovery, visit juveniles in detention facilities, greet jurors and in general lift the spirits of courthouse staff.

Ellen O’Neill-Stephens, a prosecutor in Seattle, launched Courthouse Dogs in 2003 after using a service dog – Jeeter – for her son who has cerebral palsy.

She was in Dallas this week to make a presentation on the progam to the 21st annual Crimes Against Children Conference, sponsored by the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center and the Dallas Police Department.

“Sometimes, these children will say things to the dog that they’re too embarrassed to say to a person,” Stephens said. “We had a girl who had been severely abused and she could never talk about it. But she petted Jeeter for over 90 minutes straight and she was able to tell what happened.”

Stephens said the courthouse dogs are usually golden or Labrador retrievers who go through an intensive training regimen. Only about 30 percent of the dogs that start out actually make it, she said.

She said she believes that the highly skilled canines can often be the difference in a conviction or not guilty verdict in child abuse cases.

“These children are suffering acute emotional trauma,” she said. “These dogs can help them get through that.”

(Photo courtesy of www.courthousedogs.org)

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