Prosecutor Wants to Use Dogs to Help Children Testify Against Adult Abusers

FAULKNER COUNTY, AR -- With recent child rape cases in Faulkner County, the county prosecutor hopes to bring dogs into the courtroom to help victimized children testify and bring their attackers to justice.

Confronting their adult abusers can be among the most difficult moments of children's lives, recounting their trauma.

"These monsters who rape children count on children not being able to go through the scrutiny of a courtroom process," Cody Hiland, Faulkner County prosecutor said.

Hiland recalled the testimony of a 14-year-old girl who took the witness stand to tell her story of abuse.

"She made it through unbelievably courageous testimony," Hiland said. "But just difficult to face your attacker."

That testimony put Matthew Burnside in jail, but Hiland believes cases like that take a toll.

"They have to articulate certain things that are very private, very intimate, that are going to be difficult for two people to talk about, much less a child in front of 12 strangers and the person that did this to them," Hiland said.

That made him wonder about ways to help children through the process by bringing a friend into the courtroom and make them more comfortable.

The Courthouse Dogs Foundation is a non-profit from Washington state with 70 service dogs across 25 states.

"We train legal professionals, lawyers, judges, police officers, victim advocates, forensic interviewers how to get these dogs and how to use them to help their clients," Celeste Walsen, executive director of the Courthouse Dogs Foundation, said.

Walsen said law enforcement has rave reviews about the dogs.

"People who are very stressed out feel much calmer and able to take an active part in the legal process when there's a dog there," Walsen said.

Hiland wants to bring the first courthouse dog to Arkansas to give child victims taking the stand a K9 in their corner.

"We need to do anything that we can to make them more comfortable," he said. "She's facing a monster. It's nice to have a friend with you when you do that."

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