Dogs take the witness stand with abused children

By Jena Johnson - bio | email | Twitter

TYLER, TX (KLTV)- Smith County officials have approved a plan to let dogs accompany abused children during courtroom testimony. The idea is that therapet dogs will offer comfort while a child is on the witness stand.

Five-year-old Cinnamon will soon be a courthouse regular.

"I think it's going to be really cool to see how these dogs become apart of our children's success stories," said Rebecca Cunio with the Smith County Children's Advocacy Center.

In certain criminal cases, Cinnamon will accompany abused children during their testimony at trial.

"To me it seems like such a natural combination," said Cunio.

Cunio works with abused children. She says Cinnamon will be one of many therapet dogs lending a paw.

"Can you imagine her with the little kids, isn't that so sweet? I can just imagine," she said.

She says therapet dogs, like Cinnamon, will give those kids emotional support during those down times.

"Dogs come with such an accepting presence and they present no judgement," said Cunio.

While a child testifies, therapet dogs like Cinnamon, will sit right below the child, giving them comfort and confidence while they share their story. Smith County prosecutor Guy Conine says he was ecstatic when Cunio came to him with the idea.

"Anything you can do to make a child, a young child feel more comfortable, more at ease, it's going to help them with their testimony," said Conine.

Cunio hopes abused children on the witness stand will find peace knowing a friend is right there with them.

"I can already see that happening so I'm very excited to see what the future will bring for our children," she said.

Using Cinnamon will be approved case by case, but the courts say if it will help a child, they're all for it.

Prosecutors say hearings will be held to decide if a dog will be allowed to accompany a child during testimony.

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