Doniphan home to Missouri's only court advocate dog

By Tyler Profilet - bio | email

DONIPHAN, MO (KFVS) - A new Missouri law will now allow dogs to take the stand with abused children to comfort them while they testify in court.

The only dog in Missouri trained to do that is in Doniphan.

Meet Simon.

The two-year-old black lab is man's best friend.

For the past year, he's been the best friend of more than 100 children at the Ozark Family Resource Council in Doniphan, a child advocacy center that works with abused children.

"It used to be very difficult for us to engage children and getting them to come into a room with someone they don't know to talk, especially about something so difficult," said center director Diane Silmon.  "Since we got Simon, there's been a complete change in that dynamic."

Child advocate Christy Patterson says Simon is perhaps the center's most valuable employee as he is a calming influence for the kids he works with, and the office staff.

"He has this innate ability to sense when people need him. He'll sit beside the child and kind of nudge them and, of course, their eyes just light up. He's like an angel with fur," she said.

If the child asks, Simon will lay beside children while Silmon interviews them about their experiences.

Silmon says Simon makes an immediate impact, which first showed with a four-year-old boy who didn't want to talk.

"We asked if he would go in the interview room with Simon. He did. And he remained engaged in the interview process for 55 minutes which for a four year old is an incredible length of time. Simon made the difference, there's no question about that," Silmon said.

With the new law, Simon will be able to take his talents to court and comfort children while they testify, something Associate Circuit Court Judge Dave Swindle says he'll welcome in his courtroom.

"If it helps them testify truthfully, then that's something that helps benefit the system, so I'm in favor of it," Swindle said.

Although Simon has yet to appear in court, his handlers have no doubt he will be just as comforting as he is every day in the office.

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