Courthouse canine works to help calm children during difficult testimonies

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CLEVELAND CO., Okla. – A courthouse crusader is melting hearts and giving hope to children going through traumatic experiences.

He was once considered unadoptable, but now he’s found a new purpose at the Cleveland County Courthouse.

Bandit is a full-time employee at the Cleveland County Courthouse, ID card and all.

And when he’s not wagging his tail, he’s helping bring calmness to children during a difficult process.

“Most of the time it’s sexual abuse. Sometimes it would be, like, child neglect,” said Alex Lane, assistant district attorney and owner of Bandit.

Bandit sits with children on the witness stand, which can be a scary situation for most.

“It makes this situation a little easier to go through because it`s traumatizing and it`s horrible the things that have happened and it`s horrible to relive them and so he helps,” Lane said.

Judge Lori Walkley says it works not just for the children, but employees, too.

“Bandit is fantastic in the courtroom. If he comes in to see me he will wrap himself around my feet because he`s also a therapy dog for me. I guess to make me feel better about doing my job,” Judge Lori Walkley said.

Bandit learned how to do his job from an inmate at the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center.

“The inmates train them to become companion pets or sometimes therapy pets or service dogs,” Dr. John Otto, executive director of Friends For Folks Dog Training Program, said.

Friends for Folks started almost 30 years ago. They take in shelter animals that are close to being euthanized and train them to be therapy or rescue dogs. Bandit was the perfect pet for this project.

“She said, yeah, we just had a dog go through the program and when one of the women would get upset or start crying, he would naturally go over to them and put his head on their lap,” Otto said.

A community crusader in the courtroom and a typical dog at home.

“He likes to go around the courthouse, check everyone`s trash cans and see if they left any morsels,” Lane said.

Judge Walkley said Bandit isn’t allowed in jury trials since he could make someone more sympathetic to a witness. Bandit’s owner hopes more courthouses will bring a therapy pet onboard.

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