COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Bringing hope to victims of crime: that’s what law enforcement leaders say therapy K-9’s are all about.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said since starting the first therapy K-9 team in the state, these K-9’s have become game changers in helping victims of crime.
Thursday, deputies led the last day of their nationally known therapy K-9 school to help mold more furry friends into victim advocates.
Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Darrah Metz is the leader of the program along with her partner Mattis. Mattis was the first therapy dog in the state of Ohio and the sixth in the country.
“These dogs bring hope to victims of crime. So when we have people who have been victimized, there’s a lot of trauma in that. So we want to build them back up. We want to give them the courage to tell their story so that they can face their offenders and get justice, whatever that looks like for them,” Metz said.
Metz the whole point of doing the training at the zoo is to get these dogs used to distractions and overwhelming situations.
“It gives them a very well-rounded personality. Mattis loves coming to the zoo. I often have to bring him here. And the fact is, they get to see things they don’t normally see. They don’t see seals out in Franklin County. You know, for us to actually overwhelm their senses makes them better therapy dogs when they’re working with victims of crime,” Metz said.
Metz said she teaches the dogs to be confident when seeing something new and to stay calm around new people.
Once they are fully trained, they will join in on calls to be the rock for victims in some of the most traumatic situations law enforcement sees.
“Mattis was called by the Franklin County Prosecutor for an 8-year-old rape victim,” Metz said. “The first time we stepped off the elevator, she saw Mattis. And she actually said, ‘Oh, look, a dog.’ And that was the first time that her parents had heard her voice in over a year.”
Mike Paulins, with the Columbus Division of Police, is the handler for therapy K-9 Simon. Paulins said when Simon first went through the program he had no confidence and was not comfortable in overwhelming situations. He said it is so amazing to watch Simon grow everyday.
“Simon’s first deployment was a fatal car accident. It was an individual who experienced traumatic and incidental trauma. And as a result of that, Simon got to interact with the driver of that car and he helped her get through that moment,” Paulins said. “When you see it happen for real, it’s jaw-dropping. Last year our therapy dog unit was deployed 486 times and we have already exceeded that this year.”
Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said these dogs are not the normal dogs you see with law enforcement. He said they have changed the daily lives of both the deputies and the community.
“It kind of relieves that tension and it takes a stress out of the air and they immediately go over and just for a second, it doesn’t take long, but they go over and they just get the dog and the attention just kind of just brings that calmness, the immediate interest,” Baldwin said.
Friday, will mark the 10th graduating class from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office’s therapy K-9 program.
They have now trained dogs from more than 100 agencies nationwide.