DC Superior Court got a four-legged addition to its ranks on Wednesday, when two-year-old black Labrador Pepper started work in Magistrate Judge Mary Grace Rook’s courtroom.
Pepper, along with her handler Abby Stavitsky, will provide support to young survivors of commercial sexual exploitation during the court’s HOPE Court (“Here Opportunities Prepare you for Excellence”) hearings.
The HOPE Court launched in 2018 to address the unique needs of children who are survivors of trafficking, or who’ve been identified as at an increased risk of being sexually exploited. Pepper’s job is to help the kids feel at ease in the often stressful courtroom environment.
Pepper is an accredited assistance dog. Not only is her calm temperament well suited to the legal setting, her handler is right at home in the courtroom, too. Stavitsky has more than 20 years of experience as a federal prosecutor in DC, primarily working child abuse, domestic violence, and sex crimes cases.
A member of the court’s public information office said that Pepper was very helpful to the children on her first day, who were surprised to see a real dog waiting for them. For her work in the courts, we rate Pepper “13-out-of-10, very good girl.”
Check out these photos of Pepper from her first day at work: