Two certified therapy dogs were “sworn in” Friday afternoon at the Rogers County Courthouse by District Attorney Matt Ballard.
Ballard administered an oath of office to Jerzy and Bear. By law in Oklahoma, therapy dogs are allowed to accompany victims under the age of 13 to court, with a Judge’s permission, according to Ballard. In addition they can sit with older victims. Therapy dogs can attend meetings between victims, prosecutors, victim witness coordinators and investigators.
Jerzy’s handler, Mindie Baab, started the therapeutic dog service at the courthouse in May 2015 after witnessing many children in a courtroom setting, where she works as a court reporter. She said children are comforted by the dogs when dealing with court issues.
“Jerzy is trained to detect if a child’s blood pressure increases or if they start getting nervous or shaky. She is trained to lean into them or put her paw on them to kind of calm them down,” Baab said.
Michelle Lowry, who is Bear’s handler and District 12’s community outreach and victim services coordinator, adopted her canine from Saving Whiskers and Tails (SWAT). SWAT staff were present during the swearing-in.
Lowry previously stated how important it was for Bear to be exposed to children as much as possible since most of his clients would be children. At home, her two children, Jake and Kate Lowry, aided in Bear’s training.
Both therapy dogs are registered with Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD), members of Karing K9s, the American Kennel Club and have their American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen titles. They have been getting acclimated to the courthouse and the swearing-in gives them full official capacity to serve clients. Ballard said the impact the dogs have on children is tremendous.