The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office’s two newest staff members are specially trained in providing emotional support to the most vulnerable crime victims, including children. But they’re still working on learning how to shake hands. District Attorney George Gascon today said his office has acquired two emotional support dogs to help calm traumatized victims while they go through the interview and court process.
The dogs, 18-month-old Pink, a female Labrador retriever, and 14-month-old Red, a Labrador and Golden retriever cross, were provided to the District Attorney’s Office at no expense to taxpayers by the Santa Fe, New Mexico nonprofit Assistance Dogs of the West. They are specially trained to work with children, adults with disabilities and people in crisis.
Studies show the dogs can reduce anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate for victims as well as feelings of isolation, and improve communication and emotional well being. “Our legal system can be a complex and intimidating environment, especially for vulnerable victims, kids, the elderly and anyone who has been subjected to trauma,” Gascon said. “Facility dogs can help reduce the anxiety that is often associated with the difficult circumstances under which people come into contact with the system.”
Gena Castro Rodriguez, the chief of victim services and parallel justice programs, said acquiring and training the dogs had been a lengthy and intensive process. While they will initially work with children, they may eventually also service domestic violence victims and the elderly. “We’re really looking forward to these dogs playing a vital role in helping serve victims of violent crime in San Francisco,” Rodriguez said.
Pink and Red were presented with official badges from the District Attorney’s Office today before an enthusiastic media pack, but appeared unimpressed by the fuss, preferring to doze on the floor between photo opportunities. “We were actually going to do a swearing in but we never got them to raise their right paw,” Gascon said of the pair. “They’re obviously the most popular members of our staff.”
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