Therapy dog helps child witnesses

A therapy dog's proving successful at getting timid child witnesses to open up in court.

Pella, a Labrador golden-retriever cross, works at the Colorado courthouse, taking on cases where children have been hurt, sexually abused or witnessed a traumatic crime.

The canine's work often starts during the investigation stage when a child is too traumatised to talk.

Criminal investigator Amber Urban says she makes kids more trusting.

"They interact with you because if Pella thinks you're okay, then you must be okay."

The dog then follows the witness right through to the trial, hidden out of sight from the jury so she doesn't distract them.

Pella's worked on over 450 cases and Mrs Urban says she's a valuable member of the team.

"She brings a smile to children's faces just seeing her - she's pretty special."