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Ramsey County using dog to ease stress of victims, witnesses

Updated: July 02, 2019 05:38 PM

Norie, a 2-year-old golden retriever, is the newest staffer at the Ramsey County Attorney's Office.

Around the country, nearly 60 prosecutors' offices and a handful of public defenders' offices have at least one dog onsite to help take some of the stress out of the place and help people work through the legal system, and 13 courthouses also have at least one assistance dog, including the Hennepin County Juvenile Justice Center.

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"Norie is a highly-training facility dog with one primary purpose – putting victims of and witnesses to crime at ease so that they can better participate in the prosecution process and ease the natural tension that comes with a highly traumatic experience," said Tami McConkey, director of the victim witness and community services division for the prosecutor's office.

Norie is believed to be the first courthouse dog in the state.

"Crime victims, especially children, are often under unimaginable stress," said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. "Participating in the adversarial court process can come at a high cost, and this program will make that process better for those who need the services of Norie."

"We felt that Norie's skill set and temperament matched perfectly with the work and staff at the Ramsey County Attorney's Office," said Sue Kliewer, Client Services coordinator and instructor for Helping Paws. "We make sure that each of our trained dogs maintains certification for as long as they are placed at an agency."

The county estimates it'll cost about $8,000 a year for Norie's care, food, ongoing training and related costs, but got Norie for free thanks to Helping Paws.

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