Pitt Co. Sheriff’s Office swears in therapy horse deputies

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Deputy Gunner and deputy Sammy are reporting for duty.

The two miniature horses were sworn in as Pitt County Sheriff’s Office deputies Thursday as part of a partnership with East Carolina University and a local therapeutic riding program to help witnesses and victims of crimes in the region.

Although the program is new and unique, Sheriff Neil Elks says it works.

“The reaction I saw on people’s face, I said, ‘Man, this is real. This is going to work,'” Elks said.

The goal is for the horses to help those who have suffered traumatic incidents.

The miniature horses are a relatively new addition to Rocking Horse Ranch, a therapeutic riding program in Greenville.

“A year ago, it was a dream to even bring the minis to rocking horse ranch,” said Malaika Albrecht, with the ranch. “I would have never thought this big.”

East Carolina University is included in the program, in hopes of aiding university research as well.

“If this program locally is a success, it could build to something much bigger,” said Albrecht.

By deploying the deputies to work with victims and witnesses to crimes, the Sheriff’s Office hopes to create strong connections that may have been unavailable otherwise.

“Whatever reaches somebody, whatever helps bring them back into our community is critical,” Elks said.

The staff at Rocking Horse Ranch is no stranger to the power of horses and their interactions with people.

But others are still on the fence about the program.

Sheriff Elks warned not to put the cart before the horse when it comes to seeing how the program works.

The miniature horses are easily mobile and can go virtually everywhere.

The sheriff says the horses will be available to other agencies as well, so every community in eastern North Carolina has access to the program.

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