NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For most people, facing an accused murderer or violent criminal in court is next to impossible. But now witnesses going through the city’s legal system are being given a boost of comfort and confidence.
“Bronksey” is the state’s first courthouse dog. He has been working at the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office for three weeks.
“It’s like he’s been here forever. I don’t know what we would do without him,” District Attorney Daniel Donovan told CBS 2′s Chris Wragge.
His job is to assist witnesses and victims of crimes both physically and emotionally.
“You come into a government building, you go through a metal detector, stand in front of strangers, recounting some horrific thing that happened in your life, and to have that dog come in, you can see the anxiety melt instantaneously,” Donovan said.
In his short time with the DA’s office, Bronksey has already helped prosecute several cases.
“We had a 12-year-old boy who had to testify before a grand jury that a sexual assault had occurred on him. And just recently a 20-year-old mentally challenged person who is the victim of a robbery and terrible slashing that disfigured his face,” Donovan said.
Bronksey is often there to ease the anxiety of a witness simply by putting his head in their lap, or lying at their feet.
“We need them to pay attention. We need them to help us go through the process, but at the same time we make this as easy as possible for them,” Donovan said.
Dogs have been put to work at courthouses across the country, comforting victims, witnesses and defendants alike.
Bronksey’s handler, Det. Investigator Kevin Ivany, explained that the dog went through 18 months of training to learn more than 50 commands.
Dogs in the New York City justice system meet their mandatory retirement at the age of 10.
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