SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The evidence is overwhelming that pets help comfort humans when they are in emotional distress.

So the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center has turned to cats to help comfort patients in the intensive car unit. Now, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office says it will have two support dogs to help ease the anxieties of crime victims.

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“Our legal system can be a complex and intimidating environment, especially for vulnerable victims, kids, the elderly and anyone who has been subjected to trauma,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said. “Facility dogs can help reduce the anxiety that is often associated with the difficult circumstances under which people come into contact with the system.”

At UCSF, the story is much the same.

“When you have this animal that comes in here like Duke … you can pet him, you can stroke him. He gives you a sense of being connected as a human again. So it’s really a wonderful thing,” patient Andre Ross told KPIX 5.

Gascon said his office has acquired two emotional support dogs — 18-month-old Pink, a female Labrador retriever, and 14-month-old Red, a Labrador and Golden retriever cross.

The dogs have come at no expense to taxpayers from the Santa Fe, New Mexico nonprofit Assistance Dogs of the West. They are specially trained to work with children, adults with disabilities and people in crisis.

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Studies show the dogs can reduce anxiety, blood pressure and heart rate for victims as well as feelings of isolation, and improve communication and emotional well being.

Gena Castro Rodriguez, the chief of victim services and parallel justice programs, said acquiring and training the dogs had been a lengthy and intensive process. While they will initially work with children, they may eventually also service domestic violence victims and the elderly.

“We’re really looking forward to these dogs playing a vital role in helping serve victims of violent crime in San Francisco,” Rodriguez said.

Pink and Red were presented with official badges from the District Attorney’s Office.

“We were actually going to do a swearing in but we never got them to raise their right paw,” Gascon said of the pair. “They’re obviously the most popular members of our staff.”

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