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Avery the Furry Prosecutor

While all prosecutors work tirelessly, there is one that works doggedly. He is Avery II, the facility dog of the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office. Loyal and loveable, Avery stands (and sits) with crime victims and witnesses, especially children and people with developmental disabilities, providing them with emotional support. 
Avery is a highly trained, four-year-old yellow Labrador retriever mix. He was trained by Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit organization founded in 1975 that provides trained assistance dogs to organizations across the country. Canine Companions is headquartered in Santa Rosa, California, and has a branch office in Delaware, Ohio. Avery spent two years in training at Canine Companions and was carefully matched with the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office based on his easygoing temperament and his ability to sit quietly for long periods of time. He knows approximately 40 commands. Most importantly, he is specially trained to provide anxiety relief when an anxious witness needs him.
Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh was instrumental in adding Avery to her staff. While attending a National District Attorney’s conference, she learned that New Mexico was using a facility dog to assist victims and witnesses. Recognizing the benefits, Prosecutor Walsh worked with Canine Companions so Summit County could acquire its own facility dog. She also enlisted Melanie Hart, her administrative assistant, to be Avery’s primary caretaker. Melanie had to undergo a thorough application process and attend a week-long course at Canine Companions’ training facility in Ohio. Avery’s services to Summit County are priceless and don’t cost taxpayers a dime. Canine Companions donates training updates. His veterinarian services are provided by Stow Kent Animal Hospital, and his food and other necessities are provided by Pet Supplies Plus.
Avery began his courtroom work in August 2013. He was the first facility dog used by any prosecutor’s office in Ohio. Now 25 states allow facility dogs in their courtrooms to help witnesses testify, and that number is expected to grow.
Avery has assisted in more than 88 cases, including 12 trials. His responsibilities include helping participants in two specialty courts — the drug court, called the Turning Point Program, and Valor Court, which handles cases involving veterans. Avery helps relieve the stress of both participants and their family and friends. As a special treat for participants who complete the programs, Avery fetches them a coffee mug, which is theirs to keep. Prosecutor Walsh notes that Avery is available to both the prosecution and defense counsel. “If it would help a child be less traumatized, it doesn’t matter to us if it is for the prosecutor or the defense.”
Even legal challenges haven’t stopped Avery from his courtroom work. A defendant claimed that Avery’s presence in the courtroom prejudiced his case. (See State of Ohio v. George (Dec. 31, 2014), 2014-WL-7454798.) But the Ninth District Court of Appeals disagreed, and that made Avery’s tail wag.
When Avery is not in the courtroom, he also helps at a battered women’s shelter. He was part of a team that gave a presentation on facility dogs to the American Bar Association in Washington D.C. Recently, he participated in DogFest Walk’n Roll in Hudson, where he helped raise money to provide more highly trained assistance dogs to those who need them. Avery’s hard work has helped make the court system a little less intimidating, earning him the right to his own badge.
For more information on Avery, follow him on Facebook at