Home News Local News Helping the helpers; Paint party raises funds, illustrates hope for courthouse dogs

Helping the helpers; Paint party raises funds, illustrates hope for courthouse dogs

A passerby at The Liberty catches Max’s attention, causing him to jump up and investigate. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

A benefit held at a Roswell social club Tuesday evening is going to the dogs — the District Attorney’s Courthouse dogs, that is.

A total of 63 tickets priced at $35 were sold to benefit the 5th DA Court Facility Dogs Foundation for the group’s first-ever Paint and Relax Party at The Liberty. Those in attendance were able to create a piece of art for themselves to keep or donate to the organization to raise additional funds.

The lively painting session was led by local artist and instructor at Main Street Arts, Peggy Krantz.

Gina Yeager, court facility dog coordinator, said she was filled with happiness to see the event’s turnout.

“We’re trying to do different things, and this was the first time we thought, ‘We’ll try something different,’” Yeager said. “This is the first time we’ve done this, and it’s been a great turnout.

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“It’s great to see the support that we have,” Yeager said. “I mean — when we started this, we started with nothing. To have it — to have this much support — it just makes me happy.

Yeager said despite the program for the court facility dogs not being state-funded, they still have an impressive workload.

“Between CASA and the DA’s office, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Roswell has five dogs. The DA’s office has five dogs throughout the district — there’s 10 dogs to help a bunch of people,” she explained. “We’re actually working on getting a state law and trying to get with Candy Ezzell to get a state law passed so these dogs for kids are available.”

Dianna Luce, 5th Judicial District Attorney, said the courthouse dogs are available for victims, families of victims, and also for other witnesses in cases.

“The courthouse dogs are extremely important to the offices. We have one dog in each office, Chaves County has two,” Luce said.  “And for a while, we had the only courthouse dogs in any DA’s office in the state.

“They provide that comfort in calming for the witness. We actually got Max with a child in a trial. We did a video deposition in district court so that her deposition was played for trial. And so, we had Max there next to her when she was testifying.”

Luce said before the DA’s office had their own, CASA dogs were used in forensic interviews.

“It really does have an impact in providing that calming that allows, whether it’s a child or adult, for them to be able to communicate and tell whatever it is that’s happened to them.”

However, this service doesn’t come easily. Beaumont, a black lab, and the foundation’s newest courthouse dog, cost a little over $6,000. Beaumont was also the first dog to be purchased through the 5th DA Court Facility Dogs Foundation.

“That did not include my training, (or) everything that he needed,” Yeager said. “That was just his cost.”

Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell (R-Roswell) agreed on service animals in the courtroom offering positive effects.

“It helps calm them down,” Ezzell said. “I think it’s a pretty good deal. I really do. These kids, more often than not, have been traumatized beyond anything you and I could experience, and I think it’s greatly needed.”

Ezzell offered two methods to potentially achieve statewide funding for such a program.

“Any district that has a CASA program, it could be to the benefit of them,” Ezzell said. “We could also do it through the judicial system, but sometimes those funds are used to pay courtroom help and that type of stuff — not unless we actually said, ‘This is what this money is to be used for,’ and if our budget stays pretty good, we might be able to get that done, but it would have to be all the different districts being on board with it.”

Yeager said she has traveled to Aztec with the 5th DA Court Facility Dogs following the Dec. 7 shooting last year, as well as Clovis, Silver City, Las Vegas and Deming. As a result, Yeager said she has been contacted by several other city offices after seeing their capabilities.

“We’ve taken these dogs when the other DA offices need us for a case for a child or somebody that’s had a really bad experience,” she said. “We see what it’s doing, and we see how it helps, and we’ve shown other people how it helps, and it’s — it’s my passion now. Everybody deserves to have a dog. And the dogs don’t judge.”

The Daily Record stated to Ezzell the process appears to take “baby steps.”

“I wish baby steps were not the norm, sometimes it is,” Ezzell replied. “I know that, just trying to keep our courtrooms (to the point) where they’re open, where it’s convenient for people to get in and get out without having to travel anywhere to have a case heard — I know that’s a big deal.

“The training that these dogs (receive) does take a lot of money. I get that. It takes time, a lot of patience. I want to see the program work. I really do. It’s worthy of, you know, trying to take it further. I do agree with that.”

Still, Yeager said the foundation has a strong local backing. The coordinator mentioned a program where Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell had a group that brought the foundation dog food and other supplies.

“We have a lot of supporters, you know, College Garden does our vets, Roswell Livestock donates dog food, Farmer’s Country Market Donates food,” Yeager said. “We’re really fortunate these dogs are taken care of.”

Multimedia-Crime reporter Trevier Gonzalez can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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