Mercer County program would aid abuse, assault victims through court

"Heel to Heal" would allow victims the opportunity to request a therapy dog be at their permanent hearing

A unique program in Mercer County could aid victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault as their case goes through the court system.


MERCER, Pa. (WKBN) – A unique program in Mercer County could aid victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault as their case goes through the court system.

AWARE — Mercer County’s center against domestic and sexual violence — is working to launch its “Heel to Heal” program. The goal is to ease the stress and anxiety that comes along with going to court.

“Whether it’s going to court itself or facing your abuser the day of the permanent hearing,” said Rebecca Bruno, legal advocacy coordinator at AWARE, who began developing the program. “I just wanted to relieve the stress and anxiety of going to court.”

“Heel to Heal” would allow victims coming in for protection orders the opportunity to request a therapy dog be at their permanent hearing.

“It’s up to the individual judges as to whether the dog can be in the courtroom or not,” Bruno said. “But regardless, they’ll have 20 minutes prior to the hearing starting to go in and have some time with the dog.”

It’s something Bruno and AWARE are hoping is given the green light sooner rather than later.

“Right now the contract is over at the commissioners office,” she said. “So I’m just waiting for any changes that need to be made on the contract and then we’ll be moving forward.”

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