Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice introduces Mega on Thursday,...

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice introduces Mega on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014 in Mineola. Mega, a highly trained two-year-old Labrador retriever, is now serving on her staff as a facility dog to assist victims. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A four-legged youngster whose very presence can calm crime victims is working for the Nassau County district attorney.

Mega, 2, a Labrador retriever, rested on her side Thursday as Kathleen Rice introduced her as a "facility dog" whose six months of advanced training prepared her to work with rape and abuse victims.

"It's incredibly difficult to make successful prosecutions without the testimony of victims and witnesses and particularly harder in cases involving the abuse of children," Rice said in a statement. "Mega is a . . . facility dog who's already started her work in helping vulnerable and scared victims and witnesses open up about horrific events in the daunting surroundings of a prosecutor's office."

Mega is believed to be the second dog in the state to work under a district attorney. Staten Island has had one since 2012.

She's one of at least five dogs placed with prosecutors in the Northeast by Canine Companions for Independence, a nonprofit whose regional office in Medford has trained about 600 dogs for disabled people since 1989.

"The animals are nonjudgmental," said Debra Dougherty, the Northeast executive director. "They're not going to make a face . . . to anything you say to them."

The dog idea took hold last year because of a sexual abuse victim, said Rice spokesman Shams Tarek.

"She was really scared about the entire process," he said, "and she said 'Can I bring my pet dog and I'll be less scared.' "

Dougherty said Mega showed she could handle a high-stress environment.

The dog and her training were free. She'll be owned by the nonprofit, but an attorney in Rice's office will take her home and bring her to the office every day.

There, the dog has a kennel and a "salary" of treats and belly rubs. Food and vet care will be paid with forfeitures from cases. Mega started Nov. 10 and has assisted in two sex crime cases.

Thursday, she demonstrated the "visit" order to put her head on someone's lap and submit to petting -- Rice's lap.

It's a command expected to be useful with crime victims, Dougherty said: "That can have a very soothing and calming effect on a person."

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