Eaton County gets dog advocate to assist victims

The Eaton County Prosecutor's Office is now one of five in the state with a trained dog that can provide emotional assistance to child crime victims and others.
AP Wire
Dec 29, 2013

The 1 ½-year-old black Labrador, named Reagan, was introduced recently to the county Board of Commissioners.

Reagan will be available to provide support during courtroom testimony or whenever a victim needs him. Officials say all five of the county's judges have agreed to allow Reagan, known as a canine advocate, in their courtrooms.

The county's prosecutor, Doug Lloyd, who was appointed to the position earlier this year, pushed for the idea, which has been gaining traction nationwide. In Michigan, prosecutors in Ionia and Shiawassee counties are among those using dogs to assist victims.

"Coming to court is hard for victims," Lloyd said. "The canine advocate gives them emotional support. They will know that Reagan will be there for them."

All the dogs in Michigan come from Canine Advocacy Program, an Oakland County nonprofit.

Dan Cojanu, a former supervisor at the Oakland County Prosecutor Office's victim advocate unit, runs the nonprofit out of his home. It's been around 3½ years. He said there are more than 30 similar programs nationwide.

Cojanu said all the dogs he has used were trained guide dogs from Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Mich. that were donated to his program because they couldn't work as guide dogs. Reagan, for example, had a "lean" to his gait. The dogs then go through additional training.

"Dogs bring the anxiety down so far in the courtroom," Cojanu said. "They have an intuitiveness, they know when to go over (to a victim), when to nuzzle them."

"Our program is about doing less harm," he added. "I want these kids to walk out of (the courtroom) with something — some positive experience."

Reagan's handler at the prosecutor's office is Bryan Seratt, an investigator and felony case manager. Reagan will live with Seratt, his wife and two children, ages 13 and 14.

"He's really friendly," Seratt said about his new family member. "Very, very relaxed is the best way to describe him. He's very excited to see other people."


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