CALVERT COUNTY, Md. — The Calvert County State’s Attorney’s Office has teamed up with the Sheriff’s Office to introduce a comfort dog named Dougall, specifically trained to provide emotional support for crime victims and witnesses in court settings. Available on a case-by-case basis, Dougall is especially adept at comforting victims of child abuse.
Incorporating Dougall as a part of the legal proceedings aims to create a more compassionate and sensitive atmosphere in the often stress-inducing court environment. The team’s four-legged member is trained and certified to offer emotional support to individuals who have been through traumatic or tragic events.
According to officials, the primary function of Dougall is to assist crime victims and witnesses when they are required to come to court. By doing so, the dog aids in making the judicial process less intimidating and more accessible for those who have been traumatized. This initiative follows a broader trend nationwide, where comfort dogs are increasingly becoming a standard practice in many judicial systems.
The Calvert County State’s Attorney’s Office emphasized that Dougall is particularly effective with victims of child abuse. Children often find it difficult to express themselves or recall traumatic experiences, and Dougall’s presence serves to ease that psychological burden, making it easier for them to participate in the legal process.
While Dougall is currently available on a case-by-case basis, there are plans to potentially expand his role, given the positive impact he has shown thus far. However, officials have not yet confirmed whether they will include more comfort dogs in the program or if Dougall will take on additional responsibilities.
Comfort dogs like Dougall undergo specialized training to ensure they can handle the stresses of a court environment and provide genuine emotional support. They are usually chosen based on specific temperamental traits that make them suitable for such specialized work.
The introduction of Dougall in Calvert County is part of a larger movement to humanize and improve the American judicial system. Comfort dogs have been found to reduce anxiety and stress, thereby facilitating a smoother judicial process. With Dougall’s certification, he joins a growing list of comfort dogs serving similar roles in courts across the United States.
While the introduction of Dougall is seen as a positive step by many, critics argue that the presence of a dog in a court setting could sway jurors’ opinions or add an emotional component that could influence a trial’s outcome. Nonetheless, the benefits of providing emotional support to victims and witnesses, particularly those who are vulnerable, seem to outweigh these concerns, at least in the view of the Calvert County State’s Attorney’s Office.
For now, Dougall will continue to serve the Calvert County community by offering his unique support to those who need it most during their involvement in legal proceedings. With his specialized training and certification, Dougall is well-equipped to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those he comforts.