Austin therapy dog helps children face their abusers in courtroom

Posted at 5:02 PM, Jan 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-25 18:02:24-05

The Center for Child Protection and the Travis County District Attorney have found a new way to help children face abusers in the courtroom.

According to KXAN, Mickler, a three-year-old lab and golden retriever mix, is a specially trained therapy dog that comforts children in the courtroom when they come face to face with their accused abuser at trial.

"The courtroom is pretty intimating for a lot of people, so imagine you are seven or eight-years-old talking about a very adult subject.  You need something or someone to guide you through the process," said assistant district attorney Joe Frederick. "Mickler is perfect. Kids like dogs, dogs like kids so when you have one that can work in a therapeutic environment, it takes a very difficult subject and brings it down to the child's level in such a way they have comfort and they are able to express what happened to them.”

Before the child steps into the courtroom, he or she will meet with the prosecutor of the case and Mickler and his handler, Miriam Janksy.

Mickler has assisted 30 children and counting in courtrooms. Trial cases vary from physical, sexual abuse to children who witnessed a murder or domestic violence.

He was specially rained with the help of a group called “The Assistance Dogs of the West” and he was named after a fallen U.S. soldier serving in Afghanistan.

According to KXAN, it’s a combination of his breed and training that advocates say makes him the perfect courthouse facility dog that senses fear and anxiety in children.

"When there are children that need him, he comes to court, when he comes in he gets on the witness stand and he sits underneath so the child can usually hold his leash, sometimes they'll put their feet on him, sometimes they'll rub his ears. Sometimes, just feeling that leash and knowing they're not alone is what helps get them through," said Janksy.

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