Akron) – A Summit County dog has an important job…providing comfort to those who need it most.

Summit County Prosecuting Attorney Sherri Bevan Walsh introduced Avery II on Monday. Avery is a specially trained two-year-old Labrador-Golden Retriever mix who helps crime victims and witnesses overcome their fears and stress that often result from participating in a criminal case.

Avery meets with victims of traumatic felony-level crimes to put them at ease while meeting with the prosecutors who will handle the case. Avery can also accompany to court victims who are either children or disabled. Avery helps to ensure the criminal justice system arrives at a truthful resolution by calming victims and witnesses so that they can confidently and accurately testify.

(Primary handler Melanie Hart and Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh)

“The criminal justice system can cause what is known as ‘secondary victimization’ to people who have already been traumatized. Children and people with disabilities can be especially fearful of talking about a traumatic situation in front of a courtroom full of strangers. Even coming to our office to talk with a prosecutor can be scary,” said Prosecutor Walsh. “Avery is specially trained to soothe victims so that they can clearly communicate what they’ve been through.”

Avery was trained and provided by Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) at no cost. All of his food, grooming and other supplies are being donated by Pet Supplies Plus. His veterinary care is provided free of charge by Stow Kent Animal Hospital.

For the first 15 months of his life, Avery lived with a puppy raiser who was tasked with teaching Avery basic commands and how to behave in public as an assistance dog. Avery was then returned to a training organization to undergo two weeks of testing and screening. The next six months were spent learning specialized commands, roll-playing in various work environments and undergoing further screening for placement. Finally, Avery’s primary and back-up handlers trained with Avery for one week at CCI.

(Avery with a friend. Photos courtesy of Summit Co. Prosecuting Attorney's Office)

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