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Courts Are Trying Something New To Help Children Face Their Abusers

Testifying in court is never easy, it's even harder when you're a child having to face the monster that hurt you. A child might be embarrassed, scared and feel alone, but a new program is helping to fix all that, and all it needed was a wagging tail.

Court dogs are popping up all around the world to help victims of abuse feel more comfortable testifying. A victim meets with a counselor and the dog weeks before they are scheduled to go to court. With these specially-trained dogs there to offer love and support children open up faster and more completely than those without dogs.

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Also called Facility Dogs, the dogs are specially trained for gentleness. At almost imperceptible changes in mood they'll lay their head on laps, paw for a hug or offer gentle kisses.

The dogs are also allowed in the courtroom when it's time to testify. Who wouldn't feel safer with their big furry friend beside them?

There are about 70 specially trained dogs in counties around the US, and other countries have started to catch on too.

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Seattle Dog

Rachel Crawford is a child witness program coordinator in Ontario, Canada. She handles Merel, Ontario's first facility dog.

"I can't even imagine doing this work without her now that I've had her around," she said. "The kids are much more willing to engage with us; they look forward to coming to the courthouse."

With cases of abuse sadly too frequent we can hope so see more dogs like Merel in courtrooms around the world.

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