There is scientific evidence that owning pets can cheer depressed people and reduce blood pressure in humans, but the board that governs the Office of Crime Victim Reparations is pondering whether an animal might help victims of violent crime.
The board on Wednesday asked its director, Ronald Gordon, to research whether there is scientific data to bolster the idea that having a "comfort animal" could assist crime victims in their healing.
"The board certainly thinks there's some validity to it, at least enough to have me investigate it," Gordon said.
The CVR's action was prompted by a request from a crime victim for a dog, although the CVR does not disclose details of individual cases.
CVR board members had several questions Wednesday, including
• If the CVR purchased an animal, would it be liable if the animal hurt someone?
• Should a medical provider be required to make a recommendation for a comfort animal?
• Should the CVR actually buy an animal, or provide funding?
• Should the animal be a trained "service" animal? And, if so, where should the training be provided?
The CVR is funded by money paid by criminals once they are convicted. Judges can impose a fine and a surcharge, and the surcharge is distributed to a variety of state entities, with the CVR getting 35 percent. The CVR also gets federal grant money.
Last year, it paid out $7.4 million to victims of violent crime, with the majority of that helping with medical bills for both physical and psychological assistance after someone has been hurt as the result of a crime.Gordon said the CVR also provides funding for such things as lost wages, relocation if a victim needs to move, and funeral and burial expenses.