Golden retriever hired to reduce stress at Minnesota courthouse

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Testifying in front of a trial can be traumatizing for the victims involved. That’s why a courthouse in Minnesota hired a new employee, who just happens to be a furry, four-legged friend.

You can find the canine roaming the cubicle aisles of the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis.

“I’m amazed every day I can bring a dog to work, it’s an amazing thing to do, it’s my dream job,” said victim/witness advocate Bill Kubes.

Bill Kubes is the handler for Norie, a two-year-old golden retriever, who will be there for victims and witnesses of violence when they have to sit down for interviews at the Ramsey County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

“I think many times when we ask victims to tell their stories there’s often times added stress and harm that happens,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.

This is one of many private rooms that witnesses and victims of crime would sit down with the prosecuting attorney and Norie.

“A judge could also allow for a facility dog for the victim or the witness,” said Choi.

The long term goal is to use Norie in the courtroom as well.

“We’re hoping to bring her in for sentencing hearing when victims have a right to address the court. If they could do so with the dog there, they’d be more calm,” said director of Victim, Witness and Community Services Tami Mcconkey.

In special circumstances, Norie may be used in a trial to help witnesses and victims testify.
Prosecuting Attorney John Choi assured that the dog would not be a distraction.

“Our intention here is not at all to influence the jury or anything like that,” said Choi.

It was a 4 year process for Choi’s office to find Norie.

It took two years to train her at “Helping Paws” a service dog organization based in Hopkins. Then they waited for a dog with the right temperament for a courtroom.

Norie, so calm, she slept during Tuesday’s press conference.

“I think everyone just instantly fell in love with her, I think it was kind of unanimous, we all wanted Norie,” said Choi.

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office has a budget set aside for eight-thousand dollars a year for all needs and care for Norie.

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