Canines to provide support to victims in Mercer County courtroom - News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Canines to provide support to victims in Mercer County courtrooms

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Dogs Mae and Nina have been providing companionship to their owners for years.  Now, through AWARE, Mercer County's domestic violence and sexual assault agency, the duo will be extending their paws to people forced to navigate the civil protection order process.

"The purpose of the program is to ease the stress and anxiety for victims that are going to the court hearings, protection order hearings," said legal advocacy coordinator Becky Bruno with AWARE.

Each year in Mercer County, the court receives between 500 and 550 requests for protection orders, half of which typically result in a court hearing, where a permanent protection order could be granted.

"If a temporary order is granted, they are going to have seven to ten business days until the permanent protection order hearing.  That is a long time for a victim to stir on those emotions.  So, what better way to ease that stress and anxiety than the unconditional love of a dog," said Bruno.

Studies have shown pets, particularly dogs can provide a number of health benefits, including the ability to lower a person's blood pressure.  Over the course of the next year, AWARE hopes to witness those perks in people in need of help.  The agency currently is seeking more pups, certified through Therapy Dog International, to participate along side Mae and Nina in the Heel 2 Heal pilot program.  

Dogs must be at least a year and a half old, be spayed or neutered, have an annual health exam and be a certified therapy dog.  Contact Becky Bruno for more information at 724-662-3800 ext. 2453.

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