Illinois prosecutors have new dog in the fight against child abusers

ST. CLAIR COUNTY, IL (KPLR) – Meet Homer. St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly has enlisted the lovable Labrador to help prosecutors put bad guys behind bars.

“We are really excited to have Homer as part of the office now,” Kelly said.

Homer’s job is simple: just be himself. His friendly face and calm demeanor helps abused children open up about traumatic experiences so prosecutors like Kelly can bring charges.

“Just having Homer around, it really helps them to let their guard down,” he said. “Let them be comfortable and share the information that we need to prosecute a case.”

St. Clair County is the third county in Illinois to use dogs. Kelly saw a difference on Homer’s first day.

“As Homer was there and the child was interacting with Homer, it really kind of changed the feel and changed the environment and it allowed that child to relax and provide the testimony that we needed,” Kelly said.

Labradors make the perfect dog for this type of work because of their temperament.

“He’s already the most popular guy in the courthouse,” Kelly said. “The criminal justice system is supposed to be about getting to the truth and this helps a child to be comfortable and to testify truthfully.”

Homer doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. The nonprofit Support Dogs, Inc. breeds, trains, and provides the pooches to people who need them all over the bi-state region. Homer’s odyssey began in prison, oddly enough, where he and other dogs were trained by minimum security inmates for almost two years. Then it was off to K-9 college, where Homer was top dog in his class.

“He’s passed all his temperament tests, you can tell he’s very calm," said Amie Bossi, Support Dogs Inc. "And just puts you at ease; he’s very peaceful and looks at those eyes. How could you not just want to snuggle up and cuddle with him?"