LA lawyers interested in local courthouse dog program

Malvern the dog comforts victims and witnesses of crimes in Santa Barbara County

Victoria Sanchez, KEYT NewsChannel 3 Anchor/Reporter, victoriasanchez@keyt.com
POSTED: 05:31 PM PDT Jul 17, 2013    UPDATED: 08:47 PM PDT Jul 20, 2013 
DA_dog
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney's courthouse dog program is catching the eye of some Los Angeles lawyers.

Giving kisses and cuddling up with people is Malvern's job. For nearly a year, the Lab mix has been at the courthouse to comfort victims and witnesses of crimes. Now his work is being recognized by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office -- and it could use a dog like him.

"It would be something loving and giving, and that is in short supply normally in the criminal justice system," said Deborah Kass, a deputy district attorney.

In a recent case, Malvern helped two young girls get through a difficult time. He calmly sat next to them in court as they testified against the man who molested them.

"We feel that he made a big difference in their ability to be able to be as courageous and brave as they were, and we ultimately ended up getting a conviction," said Donna Crawford, a volunteer lawyer and Malvern's caretaker.

The Los Angeles deputy district attorneys think a courthouse dog could not only help the victims in their county, it could help put the suspects behind bars.

"So often the victims, especially small children, they're cooperative, but once they get to court and this is now the moment of truth where they need to get up on the stand and say what has happened to them, they freeze and they're very uncomfortable. And if they're not able to testify, we're not going to get a conviction," said Lisa Tanner, a deputy district attorney.

For as much good work as the four-legged friend does for victims and witnesses, his paycheck is just a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ear.

"Malvern comes to us in Santa Barbara County with no cost whatsoever to anybody in Santa Barbara County," said District Attorney Joyce Dudley.