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District Attorney Jon David and paws4people joined forces to help sexual assualt victims. (Photo: Dustin Dorsey/WWAY)

WHITEVILLE, NC (WWAY) — For children who are victims of sexual assaults, a courtroom can be a very intimidating place. But there could be a solution in the works.

Dogs play a key role in the criminal justice system like the K-9s who work with officers fighting crime.

But now, they are taking on a new role in North Carolina helping sexual assault victims.

“This dog is going to quite literally follow victims through the criminal justice system,” District Attorney Jon David said. “From the time they first enter my office until sometimes a year and a half later when the case is actually being called into the courtroom. We’re going to have a service dog present to calm them and I think that’s a good thing.”

District Attorney Jon David’s office and paws4people have teamed up to get dogs like these in a program to work with children who have been sexually assaulted.

Karen Richards will be the handler for the dog and says the dogs will provide comfort for those children.

“I’ve had victims break down and start crying,” Karen Richards, Assistant District Attorney, said. “So the fact that these dogs can lay at their feet and they can put their feet on them and rub them and calm themselves or they can take a moment bend down and pet them is not only going to make our victim more comfortable, but everyone in the courtroom more comfortable.”

Cece McConnell with paws4people says this will be the first dog of its kind in North Carolina.

She believes this program will make a difference.

“I think it’s going to be a really good tool for the assistant district attorney to be able to help these kids and these victims when she is prosecuting cases.” McDonnell, Deputy Executive Director of training programs for paws4people, said.

While this service dog will primarily be based out of Columbus County, the dog will service in Bladen and Brunswick counties as well.

Richards will begin training next week and the program will start in June.

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  • SL

    That’s a fantastic program! Therapy dogs can do so much good here. They are not, however service dogs. A service dog is a dog specifically task-trained to help a disabled person mitigate a disability, and are defined in the Americans With Disabilities Act. Therapy dogs are well trained pets that work to provide comfort to many people in stressful situations, among other valuable benefits.

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