A golden retriever called Rosie has become the first dog to be allowed in a New York courtroom – so she can comfort abused children who are testifying.
Rosie is specially-trained to soothe people when they are under stress by nuzzling and cuddling up to them.
She showed off her tender skills most recently when she sat at the feet of a 15-year-old girl as she testified against her father, who was accused of raping and impregnating her.
'Adorable - though she has been known to slobber': Golden retriever Rosie is adept at comforting traumatised children
The distraught teenager repeatedly hugged the dog – described as ‘adorable, though she has been known to slobber’ - during her time in the witness box, The New York Times reported.
The trial ended in June with the man’s conviction and life sentence, leaving the teenager ‘most grateful to Rosie above all’, claimed a psychologist who works with her.
Dr David Crenshaw added: ‘She just kept hugging Rosie.’
Allowing dogs to be present during legal proceedings appears to be something of a growing trend, with comforting canines appearing in court rooms in Arizona, Idaho, Indiana and Hawaii since 2003.
However the future of the trend could be under threat – as defence lawyers are arguing the animals can unfairly sway a jury because of the empathy and emotion they inspire.
Indeed an appeal has been launched following Rosie’s latest court appearance, with attorneys for the teen rape victim’s father claiming the presence of the animal amounted to ‘misconduct’ that ‘infected the trial with such unfairness’ that it constituted a violation of the father’s constitutional rights.
While lawyers with the public defender's office do not dispute that Rosie responds to stress by comforting people, they do point out this could occur regardless as to whether the stress was rooted in confronting a guilty defendant or lying under oath.
Although there was no precedent in the state, Judge Stephen L Greller, who oversaw the trial, had ruled Rosie was allowed to attend because she had a similar function to a teddy bear that a New York appeals court said could accompany a child witness in 1994.
While legal questions about whether Rosie and others like her should be allowed in courtrooms continue, the shaggy dog has been keeping busy by playing with two girls, aged 5 and 11, as they prepare to testify against the man accused of stabbing their mother to death.
The 11-year-old dog, who is named after the civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, is able to follow 80 commands – including taking off a person’s socks without biting their toes – but her talents undoubtedly lie with comforting traumatised children.
Dr Crenshaw, who has worked with all three of Rosie’s witnesses said: ‘When they start talking about difficult things, Rosie picks up on that and goes over and nudges them.
‘I’ve seen it with my own eyes.’
Rosie is owned by Dale and Lu Picard, who run the Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities organisation.
How a golden retriever called Rosie is helping comfort young victims of rape and violence in court | Mail Online