Two dogs trained to comfort crime victims in Thurston County are in Las Vegas to help in the wake of last week’s mass shooting that left 58 people dead and about 500 wounded.
The Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and Monarch Children’s Justice and Advocacy Center in Lacey are among the agencies that have sent their courthouse facility dog teams to Las Vegas. They joined a team from the FBI to provide support to victims and their families, according to the Bellevue-based Courthouse Dogs Foundation.
Courthouse facility dogs provide companionship and comfort to vulnerable people, helping them to talk through painful or traumatic experiences. The dogs also are trained to work in high stress environments.
According to the foundation, there are nearly 150 courthouse facility dogs working in 35 states.
Marshal, a black Lab, joined the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office last year. He arrived in Las Vegas on Saturday with Kim Carroll, his handler and a senior victim advocate.
Astro, Monarch’s dog, started working with children at the center in 2014. The yellow Lab-golden retriever mix sits with them during interviews, medical exams and court appearances.
Ellen O’Neill-Stephens with the Courthouse Dogs Foundation said the group got a call from the Las Vegas fire department on Friday asking for help. By Saturday, it had eight dogs and their handlers, who are trained victim advocates, on the way.
This was the first time the group has mobilized dogs to respond to such an event. O’Neill-Stephens said so far the dogs have been working in hospitals with shooting victims and their families.
“We’ve had a couple handlers say this has been a powerful experience. It’s hard to handle all that trauma — it impacts you, and it impacts the dogs as well,” she said.