The Office of the Prosecuting Attorney introduced last week the newest member of its team, Ollie, a courthouse facility dog. Ollie is trained by Assistance Dogs of Hawai‘i to provide a comforting presence to victims and witnesses involved in stressful investigative and legal proceedings.
“Courthouse facility dogs like Ollie can help vulnerable victims and witnesses feel comfortable enough to tell their stories to investigators and in court while their cases proceed through a complicated and sometimes intimidating criminal justice system, while not affecting the fairness of the proceedings,” County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said in a press release.
Facility dogs are specially trained assistance dogs that work alongside a professional in a service capacity. Facility dogs selected to work in the legal system are confident, affectionate, and comfortable having close physical contact with people, especially children, for an extended period of time.
Ollie was specially bred, socialized and trained while at the ADH campus on Maui. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joanne Sheng will be Ollie’s handler and primary caretaker, and also recently completed a weeklong intensive training with Ollie at the campus.
The costs associated with raising and training Ollie are borne by ADH, which remains the owner of the dog through its working life span. ADH also provides training for the dog and its handler, liability insurance and ongoing oversight of the team. The handler is personally responsible for daily grooming, food and veterinary costs.
ADH is a nonprofit organization and accredited member of Assistance Dogs International, an association that sets the highest standards for the training of assistance dogs.
Courthouse Dogs Foundation Founder Ellen O’Neill-Stephens, a retired senior deputy prosecuting attorney, and Executive Director Celeste Walsen, DVM came from Washington state to provide on-sight training for Kaua‘i’s courthouse staff, lawyers and judges regarding the legal and practical aspects of including a facility dog in the investigation and prosecution of crimes. The team was also scheduled to visit the staff at the Children’s Justice Center, Malama Pono Health Services and the YWCA.
Ollie joins courthouse facility dogs Pono and Faith, who assist the prosecutor offices on O‘ahu and the Big Island, and Jake, the facility dog employed by the Honolulu Children’s Justice Center. According to the Courthouse Dogs Foundation, there are currently 104 courthouse facility dogs working in 31 states.