HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Maneuvering through the criminal justice system can be tough for crime victims.
The process of interviews and testimony, along with the stress of talking about what happened, is daunting.
To better help young victims of sexual abuse and violent crime better cope with the fallout and the anxieties that can come with criminal justice proceedings, the National Children's Advocacy Center (NCAC) in Huntsville is getting a highly trained facility dog.
"It is fundamentally a game changer. We know from the research that kids who have access to that dog, when they're in those interviews talking about these things that are very difficult, it lowers their blood pressure and heart rate just to have the dog there laying there gently and there's just something that automatically soothing," said NCAC Executive Chris Newlin.
It will be a partner for Banner with the Madison County Sheriff's Office, a K-9 who is specially trained for finding electronic devices.
"It will be great for Banner to have a buddy here at the NCAC. The NCAC has been waiting now for two years. We've been approved and waiting to have our dog placed with us," Newlin explained.
It's all thanks to a $700,000 grant from Governor Kay Ivey to place Certified Facility Dogs throughout the state. The funds will be used to house, train, transport and care for the service dogs.
“The facility dog is going to be one of our staff members. It’s going to impact everything about what we do here so it will not just be there with kids but also sometimes when our team is meeting, the dog will be able to come and be calming for all these professionals who are doing really difficult work,” Newlin added.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grant from funds made available by the U.S. Justice Department.
The Office of Prosecution Services is contributing $250,000 in matching funds to supplement the grant.
Facilities in Chilton, Houston, Montgomery Counties are also getting the service dogs through the grant.
District attorneys across the state can request the service dogs to assist in the emotional needs of victims.
The grant funds will also be used for administrative costs associated with the animals and their handlers, including transportation to and from service areas.
NCAC is getting their facility dog in May.
“This model of using facility dogs is really taking over victim service agencies all over the United States,” Newlin stated. “It’s going to be really great for our kids.”