The Calgary Police Service's victim assistance dog, Hawk, will be allowed to sit with two child witnesses when they testify at an upcoming sexual assault trial.
The request was made by Crown prosecutor Rose Greenwood in a pre-trial application Wednesday and the defence lawyer did not oppose the idea, which will see the four-year-old black Labrador comfort the children in December.
Justice Bruce Millar granted the application and addressed Hawk directly, highlighting the potentially precedent-setting nature of the decision.
"You might be the first dog in Canada, Hawk, to be a court-ordered comfort dog," said Millar.
Hawk is used by police to calm people in times of stress and trauma and first joined the force about a year ago.
Greenwood says comfort — or support — dogs have been used in court in the United States, but he believes this is the first time such a thing will happen in Canada.
"In the last few years, there's been a significant amount of cases from the U.S. where they've been using support dogs in court not only for child witnesses but vulnerable witnesses as well," said Greenwood.
One of the child witnesses is a seven-year-old girl whose father is accused of sexually assaulting her. Her nine-year-old brother will also testify.
The children have visited Hawk twice for "play dates" to get acquainted with him.