• Lol the dog sits quietly beside victims during stressful proceedings
  • He began working as a support dog in 2019
  • So far, he has assisted in over 80 criminal proceedings

A criminal court in southern France is using a black Labrador dog to help soothe anxious victims of violent crimes and sexual abuse as they testify in court.

Lol the dog became the first service animal in Europe to provide victims with official judicial support. He has been working in Occitanie courtrooms since 2019.

"After examining a case I call for the dog's help if I believe its comforting presence will help victims open up about what happened, or even when they have to testify in court," Chief Prosecutor Frédéric Almendros told BBC News. "The dog sitting next to them in court has often helped victims handle the stress of a trial."

Almendros heard of a similar experiment being conducted in Seattle, U.S. and thought of trying it in his court.

The black Lab has reportedly assisted victims, aged 3 to 90, in 80 different criminal court proceedings.

"He sits quietly at the side of the victim or witnesses, but I have seen him react and nuzzle or rub gently against people when they are becoming tense and upset and it does seem to calm them down, so they can carry on with their testimony or listen to the trial," Jean-Thibault Daniel of the Handi'chiens association, the firm that owns Lol, said as per The Connexion.

Earlier this year, Almendros published a book that tells the story of Lol. He believes the story will promote the work of legal support dogs and raise funds for France Victimes, a victim support association.

Following Lol's success in victim support, three more jurisdictions—Strasbourg, Nevers and Orléans—have committed to introducing a support animal in their court, reported La Dépêche.

Lol recently participated in a crime seminar on crime and how to assist victims at the European Parliament.

Later this month, Lol will be introduced to offenders of violent crimes in an experimental approach to reform them, according to Almendros. "If anyone can turn a repeat offender, it's Lol," he said.

In the U.S., 41 states allow support canines to help vulnerable victims in court.

Former Seattle deputy prosecuting attorney Ellen O'Neill-Stephens founded Courthouse Dogs Foundation and pioneered the use of canines in stressful courtroom scenarios.

"We envision continued growth in the use of courthouse facility dog teams that improve the fact-finding process in the legal system by helping vulnerable people participate in stressful legal proceedings," the foundation's vision statement reads.

black labrador
Black Labrador | Representational Image Getty Images