‘Court Dogs’ Offer Comfort to Kids Testifying in Fresno County

Testifying in a criminal case can be a frightening event, especially for children. Fortunately, kids in Fresno County are now getting a little help from man’s best friend.

The Fresno County District Attorney’s Office has begun welcoming dogs into the courtroom as a way to help young witnesses feel more at ease. It’s partnering with Therapy Dogs International. The group has already lent them two canines, Yoshi and Sasha, who are joining kids on the witness stand.

“A lot of times little kids don’t relate to adults as well as they do animals, so dogs sit with them to make life a little easier,” said Fresno County D.A. Lisa Smittcamp. At one point, a young child began crying during proceedings. The dog licked the child’s face and calmed him down, Smittcamp recalled.

Animals’ ability to reduce stress levels in humans is well-documented. When we pet or play with an animal, our bodies release the stress-reducing hormone Oxytocin. At the same time, levels of the stress hormone Cortisol drop. For a child, that could mean the difference between staying quiet or speaking up when it counts.

Read more about the program here.