CrimeWatch: Therapy Dogs Helping Kids - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

CrimeWatch: Therapy Dogs Helping Kids

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That's why one Travis County prosecutor is trying to bring a four legged friend into the courtroom. Sidney is a golden retriever who volunteers at the Center for Child Protection, helping children during therapy.

The Center is in East Austin and focused on reducing trauma to victims of child abuse during the investigation and prosecution of their cases. Clinical supervisor at the Center, Miriam Jansky, is Sidney's owner.

"Sidney loves her job. She gets excited when she gets to put on her vest." Jansky says Sidney doesn't do anything in therapy. She doesn't have to.

"When she goes into the therapy room, she lays on the floor."

"She doesn't do much of anything, she's just there."

"Animals can often reach folks in ways that people can't."

"She can do things that i as a therapist could ever do."

"For a child to come and touch her who has had an aversion to touch is an incredibly healing experience."

Sidney also helps out at the Travis County District Attorney's Office.

Jansky says, "One of the little girls that we had been working with originally she was going to court and they called us because this kid, when she walked into the D.A.'s office, went under the table and wouldn't come out and she refused to talk to anybody."

"With Sidney there, this child was able to sit up in a chair, talk directly to them, give them the information that they needed." Allison Benesch is an assistant District Attorney who specializes in child abuse.

She wants to bring Sidney into the courtroom to help children during difficult courtroom process.

"The next step is to have Sidney hopefully accompany us into the courtroom if we have a child that we think is going to have a difficult time giving this information in the formal atmosphere of a courtroom with a judge and jury."

But Benesch says we are still a ways off before Sidney is allowed in a Travis County courtroom. It is ultimately up to each judge.

"I think we would have to identify the case in which we really believe that the dog would be useful in terms of getting the child over the anxiety."

"The next step would be for the state to file a motion, asking the court for permission." There are challenges Benesch foresees.

"Defense attorneys are going to get an opportunity to argue that this can't in any way that it gives the jury the impression that the child is more credible or the child is stressed and needs this dog, somehow lending credibility to what the child has to say."

Other cities, like Seattle, already use dogs in the courtroom. Sidney is now the only pet therapist at the Center for Child Protection, after Daisy the bulldog, passed away. Daisy always wore her pearls.

The Center is looking for more furry volunteers and their owners. The animals have to have the right temperament and undergo training. After certification, the four legged companions can be like Sidney, reaching out and helping as many abused children as possible.

If you're interested in volunteering your pet, please call the Center for Child Protection at 472-1164.

Follow Jenni on Twitter@jennileefox7.

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