The Passaic County Prosecutor's Office is teaming up with a Morris County pet therapy center to provide some comfort to young victims of physical and sexual abuse as well as to their families and witnesses.

Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes said Creature Comfort Pet Therapy is set up inside the Child Advocacy Center in Totowa, where there is daily contact with young victims. She said the center is designed to be a place that is comforting for victims and their families when they come in to be interviewed by law enforcement.

"So what better way of putting everyone at ease than to have some amazing animals that will soothe and really provide some comfort to children when they visit our center," Valdes said.

She said her office is always thinking about how they can further enhance the victims' specifics services they have, because any encounter with law enforcement can be daunting for these kids, their families and witnesses. They are vulnerable and scared to begin with and being interviewed can be even more intimidating. Valdes said through some research, they came across Creature Comfort Pet Therapy, an organization that began in 2011 with a mission of providing comfort and companionship to the community through animal assisted activities and therapy.

Therapy animals include trained dogs, cats and even rabbits who are on an "on call" basis to respond to the Child Advocacy Center for any child who may benefit from this service.

Valdes said when the program launched last week, a great Dane, a labrador retriever and a rabbit arrived. She said she fell in love with the rabbit named Harvey.

"I could feel its heartbeat on my chest and it was, for me, very soothing and I literally did not want my part of the visit to end with them," said Valdes.

She hopes child victims will experience those same feelings of comfort and relaxation from these therapy animals when they come to the advocacy center to be interviewed, even if it's just for a moment.

Valdes said she likes the idea of having a wide variety of animals available to give people different experiences and different levels of comfort.

She said she plans to talk to the state's other 20 county prosecutors about implementing this kind of pet therapy program in their counties.

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