TULSA - It was a Tulsa prosecutor who introduced the idea of using therapy dogs to help young victims of abuse to testify in court, and thanks to results some describe as almost miraculous, it will soon be the law in Oklahoma that a child has the right to have a certified dog with them in court if one's available.
Steve Kunzweiler, a prosecutor for 24 years and Chief of the Criminal Division in Tulsa County calls the program "one of my proudest accomplishments."
He got the idea from an article about the use of therapy dogs for victims of domestic violence.
The struggle to get young victims of sexual abuse to testify in court during hearings and trials has meant a lot of predators have avoided convictions over the years.
Kunzweiler says no one who has seen what a difference the dogs make to their young clients would ever question the practice.
"I tell people it's a miracle of God to see the difference between a child who does not have a therapy dog present versus one who does," he told KRMG.
He told the story of a little girl who absolutely did not want to go into the courtroom.
The first dog they used was named "Boo," and the handler told the little girl "Boo" was going into the courtroom.
The girl followed "Boo" into the courtroom, and with him at her side, she was able to testify.
Afterwards, he says, the first words out of her mouth were directed to "Boo."
"Thank you," the girl said, "I don't think I could have done it without you."
Sarah McAmis is Director of Crimes Against Children at the Tulsa DA's office.
"I have seen firsthand what an impact this program has had," she told KRMG. "Just to see the level of comfort, and the level of safety and protection that comes over that child, it really is remarkable. The first child that I saw that happen to, I knew from that point forward what a benefit this program could be."