A popular article in The New York Times earlier this year titled "Wonder Dog" told the story of a 13-year-old boy with autism whose life was changed after his family adopted a golden retriever, shedding light on the therapeutic benefits of canines.
With that idea in mind, the District Attorney's office in Staten Island, New York, has brought in a 2-year-old Labrador-golden retriever mix named Bronksey to comfort crime victims during legal proceedings, the Associated Press reports.
Bronksey, who was trained as a therapy dog by the nonprofit group Canine Companions for Independence, is now working full-time at the DA's office, standing by victims while they are questioned by attorneys.
Prosectors hope that if all goes well, Bronksey will even be allowed to sit in the witness box, out of view of jurors, to calm testifiers when they're on the stand.
The pooch impressed prosecuting attorneys last week by helping to calm the nerves of a young abuse victim in the moments leading up to his grand jury testimony, The New York Times reported.
"Just last week, a 12-year-old boy was waiting to testify to a Staten Island Grand Jury about the abuse he suffered at the hands of a relative. The boy was visibly anxious and scared," District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan Jr. said in a press statement Wednesday. "But when Bronksey approached, the boy immediately smiled and began to play with the dog—and seemed to forget the horrible experience he was about to relay to the Grand Jury."
Debra Dougherty, the Executive Director at Canine Companions for Independence, told NBC 4 New York that therapy dogs have been shown to help victims remember details more clearly and make them more willing to cooperate with legal authorities.
But the use of canines in legal settings has not come without controversey: The Times reported that last year, courts in New York's Dutchess County allowed a dog named Rosie to sit by a 15-year-old girl while she testified about being raped by her father. The dog's presence was strongly opposed by the fathers' legal counsel, who is now appealing the conviction on grounds that the dog was used to manipulate jurors' emotions in favor of the girl.
But prosecutors insist that the dogs be included in legal proceedings to comfort victims during times of need.
"As a prosecutor, I feel obligated to do everything I can to make it easier for victims of crime, who must constantly relive what was likely the most physically, psychologically and emotionally traumatizing experience of their lives," Donovan Jr. said in the press statement. "There is something magical about the presence or touch of a loving dog that helps victims forget their pain and fear, if just for a moment, and be able to concentrate on moving forward and healing."
Check out the video above for more on Bronksey.