There’s A New ‘Judge’ In Town: DA’s Office Launches Courthouse Facility Dog Program

Judge with his handlers, little helpers, District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, her wife, Jo, and members of Assistance Dogs of the West. District Attorney Carmack-Altwies donated all of Judge’s initial supplies as pictured.  Courtesy photo

Judge, the First Judicial District Courthouse Facility Dog, with his handlers and little helpers Courtesy photo

‘Judge’s Courthouse Facility Dog Harness. Courtesy photo


The First Judicial District Attorney’s Office is pleased to announce that it has launched a partnership with Assistance Dogs of the West (ADW), who have placed a Courthouse facility dog, aptly named Judge, with the office. Assistance Dogs of the West is a 501(c)3 nonprofit agency that builds successful working partnerships between clients and dogs that empower people and open doors to new opportunities.

Courthouse facility dogs (CFDs) are highly trained and skilled assistance dogs who specifically work with special victims—children and youth–and witnesses of crime. Training of the dogs lasts 18 to 24 months. From providing non-judgmental support and comfort during forensic interviews to accompanying witnesses during trial proceedings, CFDs have a profound effect on reducing trauma in the victims they serve.

Witnesses or victims of horrific crimes like sexual assault, abuse and domestic violence are often too traumatized to give testimony. CFDs are an innovative and proven approach to reducing the trauma experienced by victims who must navigate these stressful proceedings. The CFD serves as a catalyst to help victims relax, feel safe, and more effectively participate in the judicial process. This can provide essential evidence for the prosecution of a crime, increased engagement by the victim in the process, and has the deeply powerful impact of starting the healing process for the young victim by mitigating the secondary trauma often associated with disclosure and testimony. 

To date, ADW has placed more than 50 dogs in criminal justice settings throughout Arizona, California, Indiana, New Mexico and Texas, but this is the first dog placed in the First Judicial District, thanks to the relationship built between District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and ADW and to a grant from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Fund. Judge’s handlers are Irene Melendez and Norianna Quinones of the District Attorney’s Office.