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Maricopa County Attorney's Office training fourth dog to help children through trial process

Posted at 4:18 PM, Apr 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-01 23:24:23-04

One of the newest members of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office is a 16-month-old Goldendoodle.

The dog will become the fourth member of the county's K9 Victim Support Program, which was started in 2010.

Coco still has a few weeks left of training. Her handler Rachel Burr said she's learning basic commands and how to sit still.

"Her role with me will be to provide companionship during the court process, relieve some of their stress," said Burr.

They'll work with children who are victims of crimes and need that extra support through the justice process. Elle, a 7-year-old golden retriever, and her handler Cindy Walker have been doing the job for five years.

"In the children's bureau, we do baby homicides, we do sexual abuse, we do physical abuse," said Walker.

Many of those kids have been traumatized and are often scared of the trial process.

"Prosecutors and myself will sit on the floor with a victim while they pet Elle and they're able to disclose that way, so it's such an amazing impact for all these victims," said Walker.

Elle is one of three dogs on the job. They comfort victims and accompany them through the entire process, including interviews, depositions, testifying and sentencing. When they're on the stand, Elle will lie underneath them quietly.

"They read to Elle, they braid their hair, it just makes them so much more comfortable," said Walker.

The dogs are in high demand and are often asked to work with adults. Victim advocates said having a fourth pup will allow them to help so many more victims.

All the dogs must go through intensive training and have to be certified every year. Coco has several weeks left of training before she can start working.