A new four legged volunteer is working at the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office.It’s part of an innovative pilot program, to provide emotional support to crime victims and witnesses.Malvern is a two-year-old, highly trained service dog.District Attorney, Joyce Dudley, has been working to get a dog–like Malvern–into her office as part of an innovative pilot program, to provide a calming presence and create a more compassionate environment for victims and witnesses of crimes within Santa Barbara.Over the next few months he will work in the D.A.’s office. “We often see victims, right after they’ve been victimized, we want them to feel like survivors.”Megan Rheinschild works in the Victim/Witness Assistance Program. She also believes Malvern will be a invaluable addition.”There are sometimes limitations in putting into words what a person’s trauma may be. So, I think with a dog, there is a comfort, that is sort of abstract, but very real, in terms of healing and our ability to be comforted,” She explains.Eventually Malvern could be brought into the court room to comfort victims or witnesses to crimes during sentencing hearings. He will also be there for their families.”While a victim is testifying, Malvern may be sitting in with the victims mother or father giving them the comfort they need. Its limitless in terms of the way we use Malvern,” says, Dudley.Malvern’s owner, Donna Crawford, is a volunteer lawyer. She will be responsible for his care and continued training.Malvern was professionally trained by Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization that trains and matches dogs to people with disabilities.”They also train what’s called facility dogs, which is a dog that can be used in a school or hospital, or in our case the D.A.’s office,” Says Crawford.Malvern’s training was fully funded by Canine Companions for Independence.If the program is successful here in Santa Barbara, Dudley plans to expand into other areas in the county, including Santa Maria, and Lompoc.
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