The HERO program is a statewide Certified Facility Dog Program to assist in helping victims throughout the criminal process. The program is executed by the Office of Prosecution Services and funded by a grant reward through ADECA.
Frequently people, especially children, who have been victims of crime or who have witnessed a crime of violence are emotionally effected and traumatized by those events. They are often reluctant to disclose and, during trial, they are often re-traumatized by those events. They have to describe, in detail, what happened to them in front of a courtroom full of strangers. Creating a comfortable atmosphere for the victim is important for the prosecution and the defense. When the victim is comfortable, emotions may not obstruct or slow down important testimony.
The Alabama Legislature recognized the importance of Certified Facility Dogs in the 2017 Legislative Session when it passed Willow’s Law, Senate Bill 273, sponsored by Senator Holley. After its passage, Governor Kay Ivey also acknowledged the benefit of Certified Facility Dogs to victims by signing the bill into law.
The HERO – Helping Every Survivor Realize Their Opportunity and Strength program began as a result of one facility dog making a difference across Alabama. Facility dog Willow began working in the criminal justice system in May 2014. The impact she made was profound. As a result of her work, Alabama’s Office of Prosecution Services (OPS) submitted a grant application to the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) that would fund the work of facility dogs and their handlers across the state. The VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) grant was funded and will be utilized to insure that every victim in Alabama has access to the use of a facility dog. Alabama currently has seven facility dogs working across the state.
OPS is extremely grateful for the backing of the U. S. Department of Justice’s Office of Victims of Crime and ADECA in their support of our program.