Man’s best friend: Alabama program uses dogs to assist victims in criminal cases
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama’s heroes have four legs. The HERO program is a statewide Certified Facility Dog Program to assist victims throughout the criminal process. The dogs attended a multi-day training to learn new skills to help victims.
Tamara Martin created the first statewide network of service dogs in the country that helps victims during their criminal cases.
“We’ll work with any type of victim. So, child abuse, sexual abuse, elder abuse,” said Martin.
12 dogs are assigned to a region of Alabama to help victims in each county. It’s a full-time job for the dog and their handler.
“The dog really kind of helps them smile afterward and gives them hope. You know, it’s a very good feeling to see how they go through the whole criminal justice system with a friend by their side,” said Shawn Bentley, a handler.
Multiple times a year handlers teach the dogs new tricks to improve the victim’s experience.
“They don’t necessarily come with the knowledge or the skills to engage with children. So, the trainings help us to come up with new games to play with the kids to help build that trust,” said Martin.
The dogs do it all: cuddle, color, and even play sports.
The program is free to victims thanks to grants from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.
If you need services from those HEROS, they have more details on the program on their website: HERO – Alabama Courthouse Facility Dog Program (opsheroinfo.org).
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