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Therapy dog helps victims of domestic violence

By Tracey Leong, tleong@krcrtv.com
Published On: Aug 06 2013 03:45:37 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 06 2013 05:26:42 PM CDT
Therapy dog helps victims of domestic violence
Redding, Calif. -

Children who witness domestic violence typically suffer abuse and neglect, and many times become victims as well.

With the recent rise of domestic abuse in Shasta County, the District Attorney’s office is hoping to bring justice to victims and their families. One of their four-legged volunteers is assisting in that process.

Three-year-old Niko is the District Attorney’s therapy dog. He was abandoned and nearly starved to death. After getting adopted by one of the employees, he has been given a second chance at a better life and he is using this one to help others. Niko’s main job is to comfort victims of domestic violence.

“We have kids that shut down and don’t want to talk especially in front of adults, and having Niko in the room is almost a distraction, they focus on him while they are relaying information to us,” said Deputy District Attorney Sarah Vanslyke.

Vanslyke says it can be traumatizing and emotional for victims to talk about their abuse, so they try to make the process to seek the truth as comfortable as possible with their therapy dog. Niko’s Greek name means “victory of the people,” and he’s living up to it.

“I really believe he’s here to help people be victorious just like he’s been a survivor and he’s a victory story himself,” said Niko’s owner Kathy Garcia.

Garcia says he not only helps victims, he also offers comfort to everyone in the office, passing along an important message to all who cross his path.

“Life is hard and there’s always hope, and with a lot of love you can do amazing things,” said Garcia.

If you or a person you know are a victim of domestic violence or abuse you can contact One Safe Place- in Shasta County: 244-0117 or Shingletown area: 474-1910.  You can also visit their website for more information: http://www.ospshasta.org/

Also, if you are interested in volunteering to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, One Safe Place in Redding will hold their first training course on Tuesday, August 6, 2013.  The course runs for eight weeks and takes place Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.at 1670 Market Street, Suite 300.