Eaton County Advocacy Dog Appears in Court

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CHARLOTTE (WILX)-- The Eaton County Prosecutor's Office has found a way to make tough and traumatic experiences in the courtroom easier.

Reagan the advocacy dog, made his first appearance in the courtroom Thursday. The almost two year old, black labrador is one of the newest employees for the prosecutors office.

With deep brown eyes and a tail that never seems to stop wagging, it's hard not to fall in love

"He's silly, he's big, he's black, he's funny," described one of the victims that Reagan is currently helping.

"He just relieves stress for everyone. Everyone's always happy to see him," said Bryan Seratt, Reagan's handler.

Reagan has been trained to give emotional support to victims who have been abused emotionally, or physically. He really loves kids, but is there to help adults as well.

When he's in the courtroom doing his job it may not look like he's doing much. Most of the time he sits or lays down next to the victim, but just being there helps.

"(Today's victim) may not have petted Reagan, but he was really working on his leash. Reagan can feel that and can absorb some of the stress," said Seratt.

"When we have a victim that we believe may need additional support we ask them if they would like to meet Reagan," said Douglas Lloyd, Eaton County Prosecutor.

Reagan stays by the victim's side from the moment they enter the courthouse until they leave. He's already been assigned to seven different cases.

"He gives them something to look forward to. Instead of (dreading) coming to court, they get to look forward to meet Reagan," said Seratt.

"I thought it was nice. I enjoyed seeing the dog. It reminds us there are things beyond what simply happens in a courtroom," said Judge Harvey Hoffman.

Reagan is one of only five advocacy dogs in the state, and he's paving the way for others.

"Courts are finding it's not just a question of the letter of the law. Sometimes you have to take the human aspects of the case into account," said Hoffman.

Reagan's not going anywhere anytime soon. As long as he can work, you'll be able to find him at the Eaton County Court House.

Studies have shown that advocacy dogs can reduce blood pressure to an entire courtroom just by being present.
Prosecutors in Ionia and Shiawassee counties are among those who are using dogs to assist victims.

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