This article originally appeared on www.ohio.com
The Summit County Courthouse is going to the dogs.
First, it was Avery II. Now, Trotwood has joined the pack.
The furry friends are part of an effort to make court proceedings less intimidating for children.
The Summit County Prosecutor’s Office began using Avery in August 2013 to sit with children who testify in criminal proceedings. Inspired by this idea, Summit County Domestic Relations Court recently recruited Trotwood to assist young people who are part of custody, visitation and domestic violence cases.
“It has always been the No. 1 thing I was worried about — how to make kids feel more comfortable,” said Domestic Relations Court Magistrate Ron Cable. “I believe this is the answer.”
Avery, a 4-year-old Labrador-golden retriever mix, has been involved in 88 cases and helped 111 victims during competency meetings, trials and sentencing hearings, according to the prosecutor’s office.
“Our facility dog Avery has proven how impactful having a dog in court can be,” Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said in an email. “I commend Summit County Magistrate Ron Cable for continuing this innovative approach in easing the stress children face when appearing in domestic relations court.”
Trotwood, the newest canine addition, is a 3-year-old Goldendoodle — a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle — owned by Magistrate Maureen Foley.
Cable recently used Trotwood in an interview with a 10-year-old boy for a custody case. He said the boy was delighted to meet Trotwood and feed him some treats. The boy told Cable about his own pets.
“I felt it was a nice ice breaker,” Cable said.
At one point during the interview, Cable said he had to ask the boy some uncomfortable questions. He said the boy leaned down to pet Trotwood, who was laying at his feet, as he answered.
Foley, who sat in on Trotwood’s pilot session, was pleased with how well it went for both the dog and the boy.
“It reframed his experience,” she said of the boy’s interview. “He could say, ‘I got to leave school early, I went to court and there was a dog there!’ ”
Cable said the boy’s parents were fine with the dog sitting in on the interview.
“Most of the folks we see are good people going through a difficult time,” he said. “They didn’t want to see their child upset.”
The two domestic relations judges and 11 magistrates will be able to use Trotwood to assist children during interviews for custody and visitation disputes and the issuance of civil protection orders for domestic-violence cases.The dog won’t be used in the courtroom.
“Being involved in a conflict between their parents can be traumatic for children,” Judge John Quinn said in a news release. “We are fortunate to have Trotwood to help children through this process and begin to heal.”
Trotwood also is in the process of joining the Doggie Brigade at Akron Children’s Hospital.
The magistrates think there could be more opportunities for dogs to be used in other local courtrooms in which children are involved in the proceedings.
“It’s just something good,” Cable said. “I think everybody acknowledges that.”
Avery and Trotwood haven’t yet met, but court officials say an introduction may be on the docket in the near future.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmithabj and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith.