In a trial program, a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever will soon be a "courthouse dog" who will offer comfort and support to people appearing in court in Pierce County.
TACOMA — Courtrooms are stressful and scary places where victims and witnesses come face to face with murderers and sex offenders.
But Pierce County will soon use a specially trained dog to provide a calming and comforting influence during interviews, arraignments, sentencings and perhaps even trials.
Kiley, a 2-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, will be the courthouse dog in the County-City Building in Tacoma, at least on a temporary basis. She’s been raised, trained and certified so she can work in a courthouse.
Michelle Walker, justice-services manager for the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, is Kiley’s handler.
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Following verbal commands from Walker, Kiley lies down, stretches out or rests her chin on someone’s leg. In so doing, she gives people a chance to reach out to her.
“It’s a comfort for people to hug them or pet them,” Walker said of courthouse dogs. “I think the dog gives that unconditional attention and love to them.”
Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy has approved using a courthouse dog on a trial basis. But first, she wants a policy clearly defining which animals are allowed in the County-City Building. Once McCarthy approves a policy, a six- to 12-month trial period will begin.
McCarthy said she’s concerned that having a courthouse dog will open the county to requests for people to bring in nontrained pets.