Akron celebrates special canine who comforts crime victims in court

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AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – A traditional birthday party with cake, presents and a lot of guests was held for a very special canine. 

“He’s incredibly emotionally intelligent. You know that he can tell when you’re feeling upset,” said Kayla Cash, a sexual assault survivor.

10-year-old Avery is a facility dog at the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office, helping to comfort crime victims while meeting prosecutors and testifying in court.

“We were the first prosecutor’s office in Ohio to ever get a facility dog, that’s what he’s referred to as, and I wasn’t really sure how that was going to go over,” said Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevin Walsh.

The prosecutor’s office says Avery has worked with more than 250 victims in the 8 years he’s been there. The majority of them have been children.

“When a child is more relaxed, they’re going to be better able to testify truthfully about what happened to them,” said Walsh.

One of those children was Cash, who was accompanied by Avery on the witness stand in her early teens. 

“It kind of gives you that buffer of someone you trust is there, someone that’s comforting you is there, but it’s also not in the way of the trial that’s happening,” Cash said.

She says Avery can tell when someone needs him. 

“When I testified, he sat between my legs and he actually had his head just in my lap and that offered someone that I look down to, make a little eye contact,” she said.

His handler and mom Melanie Hart says Avery is always excited to come to work.

“He always knows who the victims are. It’s amazing that he has that knack about him,” Hart said.

At his party, Avery was presented by the Summit County executive with a proclamation, or rather a “paw”clamation.

He was presented another by the Mayor of Akron, who declared August 3 as “Avery Day.” A video of his life capped off the event for the dog that has been able to put so many at ease.

“I just want to have you guys join us in saying happy birthday to Avery,” said Kayla.

Avery also works with drug court and valor court participants. He also gets out in the community and visits schools and local battered women’s shelters.

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