Thursday, July 10, 2014

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Dog In SI DA's Office Helps Comfort Crime Victims

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He's trained not to bark or get excited, and he's got no clue how to sniff out drugs or bombs, but Bronksey is a key staffer with the Staten Island District Attorney's office. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

It's hard not to love Bronksey.

For the last year, the 3-year-old Labrador retriever mix has made his home in the Staten Island district attorney's office, helping more than 200 crime victims and witnesses make their way through the criminal justice system.

"There's nothing, nothing that compares with him," said Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan. "Bronks has elevated our ability to deal with victims and to ease their anxieties tenfold."

Bronksey was trained for 18 months by the not-for-profit Canine Companions for Independence. A former police sergeant and a victims' advocate working in the DA's office have been trained as his handlers. He knows how to greet a victim or witness with a warm welcome, and he will get as comfortable and friendly with his subject as they will allow.

"Labradors tend to be very calm, and they're a calming influence, as you can see," said dog handler Kevin Ivany. "He's not a high-strung dog. He's trained to be very calm and quiet. In fact, he doesn't really bark. He barks on command."

Facility dogs like Bronksey can wait outside the courtroom when victims and witnesses testify, but they're not yet allowed inside.

Bronksey was originally brought in specifically to work with children, but his service was quickly offered to victims of all ages.

Helen Duffy Fani is one of them. The 83-year-old testified before a grand jury after she was robbed of nearly $25,000 in jewelry and other items by her home health aide back in December.

"You feel you're not alone when you have the dog," Fani said.

Bronksey spends most of his time in the waiting area outside the children's interview room. He's even trained to comfort them when they're inside. You'll often find him under the table, laying on the tiny feet of the children sitting there.

His handlers said the table's height is perfect practice for Bronksey, who they hope will eventually be allowed inside the witness box with those he's meant to comfort. ClientIP:,, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP