How dogs - yes, dogs - help out in courtrooms in Pa.

Written by Ben Allen and Radio Pennsylvania | Aug 11, 2015 3:44 AM

(Harrisburg) -- Courtrooms can be intimidating places, so some counties in Pennsylvania are turning to man's best friend to make people comfortable.

People going through the DUI, drugs, veterans or mental health special treatment courts in York County might be greeted by Buster, a black lab.

Similar scenes play out across the state, and not just in treatment courts.

Interviewing children in custody cases can be difficult for both sides until they see a special friend.

"They come in scared with their guardian. But the dog's there and they start petting the dog. And it has a way of just giving some comfort and they start talking more friendly and more easily because they realize they're not being confronted," says Bucks County Judge Robert Mellon.

Other judges say a dog can help them make a better decision, too.

"The transformation was remarkable. Kids that hung their head in the courtroom and you really had a hard time getting them to participate whatsoever, came into the courtroom and greeted me how are you today judge and things like that," adds Venago County President Judge Oliver Lobaugh.

About one-third of Pennsylvania's custody courts have dogs available to put children at ease.

Comfort dogs and their handlers receive training and must be certified by a national organization before stepping into the courtroom.

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