Lehigh County Courthouse Companion Dog Eases Trauma of Testifying

Written by on June 8, 2020

Lehigh County Courthouse Companion Dog Eases Trauma of Testifying

By Tracy Yatsko

June 8, 2020

Photo | Tracy Yatsko / WLVR

Ramona is a 5-year-old companion dog at the Lehigh County Courthouse. Her role is to help ease the trauma of testifying in court. 

Research supports that for some people, contact with an animal can significantly reduce stress and anxiety and build trust with child victims.

Ramona the courthouse companion dog is there for comfort and support. Kimberly Silvestri is Ramona’s handler and Lehigh County’s Victim Witness Coordinator.

Photo | Tracy Yatsko / WLVR

“It can be a really overwhelming experience for anyone coming into court, particularly a child. Reliving the trauma that they went through whatever that may be, whether they had something stolen from them or it’s a sexual assault. A lot of times people and again, especially kids connect with animals in ways that they don’t always connect right away with other human beings.”

And Ramona isn’t just available for comfort inside the courtroom, she’s available to take home in a coloring book titled “What happens in Court.” It has activities like ‘Where’s Ramona’ and education on the layout of the courtroom.

Photo | Tracy Yatsko / WLVR

“It teaches them about what to expect in court. It talks about the different roles that people are playing, the attorney, the defendant, where everyone is sitting, what’s going to happen.”

District Attorney Jim Martin says Ramona helps adults too, regardless of age, because going to court can be an unnerving experience for anyone.


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