Ellen O’Neill Stephens and Celeste Walsen are working to make courtrooms a more comfortable place for testifying victims. Both women created a program–known as Courthouse Dogs–which allows canines to calm witnesses during a high-pressure situation. “When a person is reliving a traumatic event, they experience physiological reactions similar to what they had when the event was taking place,” Stephens told Upworthy. “This adversarial system is brutal. A lot of people come out damaged by it.” They also hope to bring these dogs to prosecutor interviews and into child advocacy centers, especially for the children who are fearful of this process.
Currently, Courthouse Dogs employs 87 dogs who are working in 28 states. These animals have to undergo years of training and they’re actually raised to be immune to chaotic situations. Overall, both Stephens and Walsen hope that defendants will feel relaxed enough to accurately tell their version of the story. “I think it’s revolutionizing this process,” Stephens said. “I’m fairly confident this practice is here to stay and it will only grow.”