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The man’s best friend has joined the staff of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office.
Lewis, a 2-year-old Labrador Retriever, has been named the DA’s first ‘service dog’, who has been specially trained to work with victims and witnesses to relieve stress during the criminal justice process .
Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino Jr. said Lewis would help calm some spirits during “what is often a traumatic and stressful experience.”
Lewis became a full-time member of Scarpino’s staff in September and is managed by Assistant District Attorney Brian Bendish.
Scarpino said Bendish took three weeks of specialist training to bond with Lewis and learn 40 advanced commands that the therapy dog is now responding to.
The training included lectures, hands-on training, and multiple exams in order to gain public certification.
Scarpino said training is ongoing and requires a strict consistency and structure implemented by Bendish to ensure Lewis adheres to his trained behaviors.
“Lewis is an exceptional animal. He’s incredibly calm and gentle, ”Bendish said. “He’s trained not to approach anyone unless told to.
“I can’t wait to see how his easy going demeanor will ease situations for our victims and witnesses.
“I’m really excited to continue to bring Lewis into the AD office and let him do this important work in the future. I think he’s just a great addition to our office.”
Lewis was raised and trained by Canine Companions for Independence and adopted free of charge by the Westchester County Attorney’s Office.
It is estimated that Lewis and his handler’s two years of training cost around $ 50,000, which was paid for by donations to Canine Companions.
The cost of Lewis’s ongoing care and feeding is being met privately within the District Attorney’s Office.
“For witnesses and victims, attending interviews and preparing for trial is a very stressful time, especially for child witnesses, victims of domestic and elderly abuse, and victims of sexual assault,” said Scarpino. “Recounting and reliving those moments can be extremely difficult.
“Health professionals have confirmed that having a dog to comfort them, whether at meetings or in court, can help relieve this stress,” the AD continued. “We are delighted to bring this special level of care to those who need it most.”
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