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Under the Bench Service Dog Helps NY Judge

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

Judge Howard Sturim of the Nassau County court has a cute little secret that he hides under the bench in his courtroom. That secret is a diabetic service dog named Barney.

Judge Sturim has type 2 diabetes, and Barney has been specially trained to smell when the judge needs to take his insulin. Barney (like all dogs) is a good dog, and in the last 20 jury trials, has only been found out once due to a sneeze that caused his collar to jingle, which raised some curious eyebrows in the courtroom. Rather than leave the courtroom puzzled, he revealed Barney to the courtroom.

Dog Days of Distraction

While pets may not be allowed in courtrooms (unless they're an exhibit), exceptions are often made for emotional support animals, and are always made for service animals. For the judge, Barney allows him to better keep his blood-sugar levels in check, alerting him before his levels start to fluctuate. He reports that since getting Barney, he's blood-sugar numbers have never been better.

However, as the New York judge is well aware, he has to keep Barney hidden, otherwise everyone in the courtroom would be distracted by those puppy-dog eyes and fluff. For the most part, Barney sits under the bench in the courtroom and litigants, jurors, and the gallery, are usually completely unaware he is even there. However, Judge Sturim will introduce his dog to the jury after the trial, and court staff know he's under there and often come by to say hello. And not only did Newsday break this incredibly cute story, there's a video of Barney on their site (sure, the judge is in it too, but let's be real here, you're only clicking through to see the pupper).

Service Dogs for Justice

Perhaps the most famous service dog for justice comes courtesy of the American folk hero, Arlo Guthrie, and his magical song, Alice's Restaurant.

If you've never heard the longest anti-war song ever written and performed, there's a section where Arlo describes being prosecuted for littering, and upon arriving in the courtroom and seeing the arresting officer with "27 eight by ten color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us." Luckily for Arlo though, he catches a stroke of luck when the judge walks in with a "seeing-eye dog." But despite the seeing eye dog, Arlo was still found guilty, fined $25 or $50, and required to pick up the garbage he littered, in the snow.

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