Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) has awarded a $700,000 grant for a new way to help victims of sexual abuse and violent crime better cope with the fallout and the anxieties that can come with criminal justice proceedings.
The Office of Prosecution Services is using grant funds to place Certified Facility Dogs throughout the state. Four facilities in Chilton, Houston, Montgomery and Madison counties will house, train, transport and care for the service dogs who can be deployed to any of the 67 counties in Alabama. District attorneys across the state can request the service dogs to assist in the emotional needs of victims. For example, a service dog can help a young victim of abuse feel more comfortable when having to recount details of the abuse in the criminal justice system.
“The trauma of violent crime and abuse can leave lasting emotional scars on victims, especially the young,” Gov. Ivey said. “Emotional support animal programs can be an excellent way to help victims cope with the stress and trauma associated with the crimes and the judicial process that follows,” Ivey said. “I commend the Office of Prosecution Services for establishing this program to assist victims through a very difficult time in their lives.”
Ivey notified Barry Matson, OPS executive director, that the grant had been approved.
The grant funds will also be used for administrative costs associated with the animals and their handlers, including transportation to and from service areas. The Office of Prosecution Services is contributing $250,000 in matching funds to supplement the grant.
According to the Courthouse Dogs Foundation website, Courthouse facility dogs are professionally trained dogs working throughout the country in prosecutor’s offices, child advocacy centers, and family courts. They primarily provide a calming influence for children during stressful legal proceedings. As legally neutral companions for witnesses during the investigation and prosecution of crimes, these dogs help the most vulnerable witnesses feel willing and able to describe what happened. The dogs also provide emotional support to participants in family court proceedings and in specialty/treatment courts.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grant from funds made available by the U.S. Justice Department.
“I stand with Gov. Ivey in her commitment to helping victims of crime in all aspects of the recovery process,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “By helping victims of all ages handle stress and trauma more effectively, this program can a big difference in the recovery process.”
ADECA administers an array of programs supporting law enforcement and traffic safety, economic development, energy conservation, water resource management and recreation development.