Molly B, service dog. (Photo: UALR's midSOUTH)
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Canines in some Arkansas courts could soon be a real 'paw-sibility'. The idea to bring dogs into the courtroom to comfort children was unleashed this week during a statewide Child Abuse and Neglect Conference in Little Rock.
At these weeks Arkansas Child Abuse and Neglect Conference in Little Rock, UALR's School of Social Work community service unit introduced case workers to Molly B. Molly, a service dog from the Courthouse Dogs Foundation in Washington, is playful and loving, Her handler, Celeste Walsen, believes she's exactly what abused or neglected children need while giving testimony.
"Molly is a courthouse dog, and what Molly does is accompany children who have been abused, who might have been sexually assaulted," she explained. "We're hoping that some of the child advocacy centers or prosecutor offices or police departments will want to get a dog like Molly to work with children in Arkansas."
Walsen said there are 48 courthouse dogs working in 21 states.
Joylyn Humphrey, with MidSOUTH, said they're hoping to bring a dog like Molly B. to Arkansas.
"The response was incredible in terms of talking about putting together a task force and looking at how they even talked to us about how to get funding for this," she explained.
Hundreds of children are pushed through the Arkansas court system every year. Walsen said Molly B. can act as the key component for investigators by helping soothe children while they're in the courtroom and offering a type of unconditional love.
"When children are stressed out they quit talking, and if they can't tell what happened to them, nothing can happen to help them, and when they're with the dog, it just lights them up," she added. "She doesn't care about their culture. She doesn't care about what they're talking about. She wants to sit with them and lean on them and be petted."
Courthouse dogs range from $18,000 to $20,000. The non-profit organization provides the dog and training, but the advocacy group or county must pick up the rest of the service dog's tab.