From Dog House To Courthouse

At the Sarpy county courthouse -- after raising their right hand, you might see witnesses reaching down and pet a dog while testifying.
That’s one goal of a new full-time program through the County attorney. “Manny" spends his days in the courthouse instead of the dog house?

When Manny raises his paw, it's to help a witness feel comfortable telling the truth. Prosecutor Stephanie Hansen says, " I think this will be so wonderful, especially for the children witnesses, our kids."

Manny is a trained service dog working full-time in the Sarpy County Courthouse. He doesn't sniff out drugs or bombs, only nervous young victims called to testify. But his handler expects some objections from the defense table anytime he's brought into court.

Still the director of the Sarpy County victim/witness unit hopes in some cases Manny will be called to the stand to lie at the feet of an anxious young witness. Jean Brazda says, " Everything thing all around this courtroom is not normal. A dog is so if I’m a child, I’m comfortable here."

The public defender says Manny's role in trials will have to be proven. Sarpy County Public Defender Tom Strigenz says, " it’s a new concept so anything that's new is always going to be met with skepticism and questions."

The lab retriever mix is also a courthouse ambassador and at two years old he's worth 45-thousand dollars fully trained.

The group "Canine Companions" gave him to Sarpy County.
He lives with the director of the victim witness who is his trained handler thanks to a grant from Midlands Foundation.

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