(Anderson, SC).  A courthouse facility dog will soon be joining the Tenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office to help comfort and support victims and their families during the investigation and prosecution of crimes. Facility dogs are specially trained assistance dogs that work alongside a professional in a service capacity to assist many other people.  Facility dogs specially selected to work in the legal system are confident, affectionate, and comfortable having close physical contact, especially with children.  These dogs also have the temperament to be able to interact with all people from many walks of life in a high stress environment for extended periods of time. There are currently 87 courthouse facility dogs working in 28 states.  This will be the first courthouse facility dog in South Carolina. 

 

In the Tenth Circuit, the dog will help provide a sense of calm to anxious victims and witnesses during forensic interviews, meetings with prosecutors, and on the stand during trial.  Solicitor Chrissy Adams plans to have the new dog begin working in the Solicitor’s Office in November. The Solicitor’s Office has been selected to receive a dog through Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. 

 

Assistant Solicitor Chelsey Moore will be the dog’s handler and primary caretaker. She will travel to CCI’s Southeast Facility at the end of October to undergo an intensive, two-week training with the new dog.  Prior to Moore’s arrival, the dog will have undergone two years of socialization and training.  He or she will be a bred and trained graduate of CCI, an Assistance Dogs International accredited organization.  Even though CCI facility dogs are valued at $50,000 at the time of their placement, CCI provides the dog, two weeks of training for the handler, the liability insurance, and on-going oversight of the team free of charge.

 

Courthouse Dogs Foundation founder Ellen O’Neill-Stephens, a retired senior deputy prosecuting attorney, and Executive Director Celeste Walsen, DVM, are coming from Washington state along with their own courthouse facility dog, Molly B., to provide onsite training for courthouse staff, lawyers and judges regarding the legal and practical aspects of including a facility dog in the investigation and prosecution of crimes.   The public is invited to meet with the Courthouse Dogs Foundation team and learn more about how these remarkable dogs help make the legal system more humane.  This presentation will take place on Friday, October 16th from 3:00-4:00 PM on the third floor of the Anderson County Courthouse. 

“We are honored to be the first Solicitor’s Office in the state to be selected for this program,” said Solicitor Chrissy Adams.  “We have made a concerted effort to bring innovation and new programs to the 10th Circuit.  This latest effort is another way that we can assist victims and ensure that we are doing all we can to bring to justice to the citizens in our community.”