In one of her final innovations as the county’s district attorney, Kathleen Rice has demonstrated both creativity and an understanding of the challenges that the victims of crime who come into her office sometimes face.
Rice has announced that a two-year-old female Labrador retriever named Mega has joined her team to assist in interviewing the victims of crimes such as child abuse and sexual assault.
According to Rice, “Mega is a highly-trained facility dog who’s already started her work in helping vulnerable and scared victims and witnesses open up about horrific events in the daunting surroundings of a prosecutor’s office.”
Anyone involved in law enforcement and even those who watch “Law and Order” or any of the other popular crime dramas knows that the traumatized victims of criminal acts can find it hard to open up to prosecutors who are there to help them. A friendly dog like Mega can make a world of difference.
At the moment Mega is one of only two “facility dogs” doing this kind of work in the state. Rice said there is the possibility that Mega will someday be used in trials and grand juries.
Don’t worry about Mega – Assistant District Attorney Amanda Burke, of the office’s Special Victims Bureau, will take her home each night.
Mega was made available to the county free of charge by the non-profit Canine Companions for Independence, who will retain ownership. This organization, which has trained dogs to help the disabled, has once again demonstrated its generosity and its understanding of the valuable role that a properly trained dog can play.
“These placements are exemplary of the animal-human bond mostly because animals are non-judgmental, live in the moment and are always happy to have that companionship,” said Debra Dougherty, the northeast regional director for Canine Companions.
If this project is a success, it will become part of the lasting legacy of DA Rice, who will be moving on to Congress in January where she will represent the 4th District.