New Courthouse Display Honors Court Dogs, Handlers


Tuesday, July 20th 2021, 1:52 pm


TULSA, Oklahoma -

The Tulsa County Courthouse is honoring some special courtroom dogs and their handlers. 

For more than a decade, the dogs have been providing emotional support for children testifying in abuse cases.

"Sometimes they just don't feel like they have a friend in the world. But they know that this dog loves them unconditionally," said the retired prosecutor and volunteer court dog handler Allen Pease.

Court dog Miss Chance was rescued by Pease, and together, they've been helping children in court for six years. Pease remembers a 10-year-old boy at a hearing for a sexual abuse case.

His parents were in the jury dock, shackled and wearing jail clothes.

"You can imagine how frightened the young boy was. And he asked the judge if Chance could sit up in the witness stand with him. And that's just never been done before, ever, ever," Pease said.

Chance crawled onto his lap and sat with him for three hours.

"And for three different sessions over three hours of cross-examination by three different attorneys, and it was just amazing," Pease said.

There are five other dogs and four other handlers, all volunteers.

In 2014, District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler helped get a law passed in the state, giving children under 13 the right to have a therapy dog in court, if they have a bond.

The Special Dog Unit program is the largest and longest-running in the state. It provides support for children testifying in emotional, physical and sexual abuse cases.

Kunzweiler says the dogs can sense when a child is in distress and empathize.

"And then they're able to start talking about what happened to them. So it relieves the anxiety and helps us get the truth in front of a judge or a jury," Kunzweiler said.

This wall is in the Victim Witness Center with photos of active and retired dogs and handlers. The DA's office says they hope it also serves as a distraction for other crime victims.

"As the folks are coming in, maybe they've been a victim of a robbery, or their house has been broken into, I want to give them a little bit of something to distract themselves. Look at something that's been positive in our community that we've been able to lead the state in," Kunzweiler said.

Pease says for him, it's not about the recognition.

"The honor is just being able to participate," he said.