Criminal Justice

Courthouse canines, part of a one-of-a-kind statewide program, don antlers and see Santa

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Alabama wants to raise the woof for its courthouse dog program.

The state appreciates its eight dogs that handlers brought them to see Santa Claus on Monday for a photo opportunity while wearing antlers, reports. In addition, the state is expanding the program next year by adding at least four more dogs.

Alabama is the only jurisdiction with a statewide facility dog program. The eight Labrador retriever mixes—one for each region of the state—are dispatched to courtrooms, child advocacy centers and police stations to provide comfort to victims and witnesses.

Other states and other countries are looking to Alabama as a model for running such a program.

Willow was the first dog to participate in 2014. Willow’s owner is Tamara Martin, the grant administrator for the Alabama Office of Prosecution Services.

Sometimes a dog is the reason that a case goes forward, Martin told “If you have a victim or witness that needs that extra support, that doesn’t feel comfortable going forward and testifying by themselves, they can have one of these dogs present with them in the courtroom, on the witness stand, and it makes all the difference in the world,” Martin said.

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