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Bark! Canine advocate making a difference at Jackson courthouse

JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) -- Dogs provide fun and comfort to our home lives.

 

But more and more, dogs are being found in a different kind of house, a courthouse.

 

6 News recently followed around Jackson County's very own canine advocate to see how he's making a difference.

 

At the start of the day, Prosecuting Attorney Jerry Jarzynka and his dog, Abe, go to their separate offices and get to work.

 

“We’ve found Abe has been very helpful,” Jarzynka said.

 

Last year, this 3-year-old yellow lab became the first canine advocate in the prosecutor's office.

   

Working in the victim rights division, this highly trained furry friend is here to lend a paw.

 

“He’s been going through training to help kids who need to testify about assault, typically sexual assault. So that means Abe has to be able to be in a court room by the witness stand, be able to sit or lie down calm for at least an hour,” Jarzynka said.

 

Jarzynka says Abe can sense when someone is feeling sad or anxious and lays on his doggie charm.

 

“Helps to kind of reduce anxiety about having to talk about a traumatic event,” Jarzynka said.

 

Since Abe started working in the courthouse he's helped out in dozens of cases, including some very emotional trials.

 

Last fall, Jim and Tina Harbert were on trial for severely abusing their two boys.

 

One of the boys testified with Abe by his side.

 

That’s when his handlers saw the power of this prosecutor pup.  

 

 “He couldn't wait to go back and hug him in between and gave him a little boost to keep going again,” said June Thompson, one of Abe’s handlers and assistant coordinator for victim rights at the courthouse.

 

Abe takes routine bathroom and play breaks during the day, and is free to be a dog when he goes home, living with the Jarzynka family.

 

His boss says Abe keeps tails wagging all over the courthouse.

 

“He’s been a great morale booster for the staff, and an ambassador for the prosecutor’s office,” Jarzynka said.

 

Jarzynka says 22 out of Michigan’s 83 counties currently have canine advocates in their courthouses, and he expects that number to keep growing.


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