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Summit Co. Prosecutor's Office pooch helps keep people calm during trials, investigations

Posted at 11:45 AM, May 22, 2019

AKRON, Ohio — Being a victim or a witness on testifying in a trial can be scary for adults, but it can be downright terrifying for children. To help alleviate this, the Summit County Prosecutor's Office has a secret weapon — an office dog named Avery.

"We deal with some really horrendous cases," said Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh.

Still, children often end up having to talk to detective and attorneys about crimes other people commit, sometimes even having to detail them again in court.

As a survivor of sexual assault, Kayla testified against her own father about six years ago in a trial that ultimately led to a 15 year prison sentence.

"It felt impossible to walk into that courtroom," said Kayla. "Honestly, it's the most terrifying thing I've done besides the trauma itself."

That's when Kayla first came across Avery, the Summit County Prosecutor's Facility Dog. Kayla was just 15 years old and when she was uncomfortable on the stand, Avery's head was in her lap.

"I could just look down and see his little eyes and sometimes, I don't know if he could feel that I was getting more upset, but sometimes he would start nudging at my hand, like, 'Pet me, pet me now," said Kayla.

That was four years ago at the beginning of Avery's work in Summit County.

The Prosecutor's Office says he's helped around 230 people, mostly children, during criminal investigations over six years, even sitting with people testifying nearly 20 times.

"He has a calming effect," said Bevan Walsh. "The more calm and relaxes the kids are, the easier it is to talk about what happened to them."

That's why Bevan Walsh says her office can't imagine doing their work without Avery.

"I've had numerous prosecutors say things to me such as, 'I don't think that child would have ever talked to me if it weren't for Avery,'" said Bevan Walsh.

Now, Avery is getting older and might only have a few years of service left. Bevan Walsh says that's why her office will apply to get another dog when Avery isn't able to work anymore.

"He does such a good job at understanding that you need love right now and I'm going to give you love," said Kayla.