Although Marshall has only been a courthouse dog for Thurston County since last December, he’s already having an impact by providing comfort and support to crime victims and their families.
Experts have found that having a dog in the room actually counters the effects of a hormone that can prevent a crime victim from talking about abuse he suffered.
In extremely stressful situations, the body releases a hormone called cortisol. When it builds up in the body, cortisol causes the higher functions of the body, like speech and memory, to shut down.
Courthouse dogs helps calm a crime victims by counteracting cortisol and allowing crime victims to verbalize what happened to them.
The idea of using dogs to help calm crime victims originated with Former King County Prosecutor Ellen O’Neill-Stevens. Because of her work King County was the first jurisdiction in the country to have a dog specifically trained to help crime victims and work full time in a prosecutor’s office or with any government agency.
After she left the Prosecutor’s office O’Neill-Stevens started Courthouse Dogs, a nonprofit with a mission to “promote justice with compassion through the use of professionally trained facility dogs to provide emotional support to everyone in the justice system.”
Because of the work O’Neill-Stevens started over a decade ago, Thurston County crime victims have a friendly furry face to help them work through terrifying and stressful court cases.