A dog walks the halls of a courthouse in Ohio. But there’s no need to call security. This pooch is on the job.
Meet Atticus. This two-year-old yellow Labrador retriever is the newest employee of the Lake County Common Pleas Court. His main role would be to help people relieve stress during court proceedings.
Atticus would provide his services for all the court’s divisions: General, Domestic Relations, Juvenile, and Probate.
A Very Busy Dog
On a typical workday, atticus could be easing a victim or witness’s stress during testimony or providing comfort to children at juvenile detention centers. He also could be helping a child transition into an adopted family or aiding a judge during interviews with children in divorce cases.
Judge Falkowski has reported success in using her own dog for such interviews. She says the dog’s presence reduced stress levels in children.
While on the job, Atticus will remain under the supervision of his primary handler Marie Umholtz, a magistrate with the Domestic Relations Division. After a long day’s work, Atticus would stay at Umholtz’s home with his new family.
Atticus was named after Atticus Finch, the fictional lawyer from Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
A Rigorous Application Process
The courthouse began searching for its new, four-legged employee in September 2014. Atticus needed approval from all of the court’s seven judges, as well as the county commissioners. Prospective facilitators also went through detailed personal interviews and handling sessions at the premises.
Atticus was provided to the court free of charge by the Canine Companions for Independence of Delaware, Ohio. The court will pay only for the on-going care of the dog. Ownership will remain with the Canine Companions, which also insures the pooch.