Dog helps victim testify during trial, a groundbreaking moment in Minnesota

(KSTP) – One dog is breaking new ground in the Minnesota court system.

For the first time, a judge allowed Nova, a facility dog with the Stearns County Attorney’s Office, to accompany a young victim to the witness stand during testimony.

“The victim could pet her the whole time,” Nova’s handler and Victim-Witness Coordinator Keli Trautman said. “You can just see their bodies relax a little bit. I mean, what they’re talking to us about is not easy. I was so excited, I was so happy. I knew it was going to help our victim.”

Nova sat next to the victim out of the jury’s view for five hours.

“This victim in our case who was going to be testifying was a child who had experienced some traumatic abuse throughout her life,” Assistant Stearns County Attorney Jamie Reinschmidt said. “We knew that Nova could help make this situation less stressful for her if she was able to be up on the witness stand with this victim.”

A man was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years in prison after the trial Nova sat by the victim.

Officials say that was Nova’s first case but won’t be her last, as she’s already scheduled to appear with another victim in an upcoming trial.