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Promote the Use of Dogs in Court by Victims and Witnesses of Violent Crimes

Promote the Use of Dogs in Court by Victims and Witnesses of Violent Crimes

Name: Allowing Victims and Witnesses to Testify in Court with Facility Dogs 

Humans have an unquestionable bond with companion animals, especially dogs. Attorneys and judges across the country have discovered that tapping into this bond may help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that arise when victims and witnesses of violent crimes such as sexual assault and murder testify in court about graphic events surrounding the case.

Eleven states—Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Oklahoma and Virginia—have already enacted laws that allow attorneys to use certified animals, usually dogs, to accompany vulnerable witnesses who testify in court, and more states are considering similar legislation each year.

If your state has not already introduced or passed a measure to allow the use of certified animals to support vulnerable witnesses in court, please contact your state legislators and ask them to sponsor a bill in your state. 

 

Call to Actions:

  1. Please contact your state Senator and state Representative and urge them to sponsor legislation that allows vulnerable witnesses to be accompanied by a facility dog when they testify in court.
  2. Spread the word! Share this page with your social network.

 

Recipients

  • Your State Senator or Senators
  • Your State Representative or Representatives

Contact

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Message

Require courts to allow victims and witnesses to use a facility dog for comfort during testimony in court

Dear [Decision Maker],

I am writing to ask you to introduce legislation that would require courts to allow certain vulnerable witnesses to be accompanied by a facility dog when they testify in court.

Humans and dogs have an unquestionable bond with each other. Over the past several years, attorneys and judges across the country have discovered that tapping into this bond may help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety that victims and witnesses, especially of violent crimes such as sexual assault and murder, experience when they testify to graphic facts of the case in court.

This legislative measure is non-controversial. Eleven states already have provisions that allow attorneys to use certified animals, usually dogs, to accompany certain vulnerable witnesses who testify in court, and more states are considering similar legislation each year.

Please consider supporting legislation that will allow vulnerable witnesses to be accompanied by a facility dog when they testify in court. For your convenience, I have included a model law that you can use in drafting a bill:



Emotional Support Dogs for Witnesses in Court

Sec. 1. Purpose

Victims and witnesses of violent crimes who testify in court often suffer unimaginable stress and anxiety as they relive the events surrounding the crime during their testimony. Certified facility dogs who are trained to provide emotional support in a courtroom setting have been used in courthouses across the country to help ease tension and to aid witnesses in providing accurate testimony.

Sec. 2. Definitions

Certified Facility Dog: a dog who has graduated from an assistance dog organization that is accredited by Assistance Dogs International or a similar internationally recognized nonprofit organization whose main purpose is to grant accreditation to assistance dog organizations based on standards of excellence in all areas of assistance dog acquisition, training and placement.

Sec. 3. Facility dogs; use in court; procedure

(a) The court shall allow a witness testifying in a violent crime proceeding who is either under eighteen years of age or who has a developmental disability to have a certified facility dog, if available, accompany them while testifying in court.

(b) The court may allow any witness who does not meet the criteria provided for in subsection (a) of this Section to have a certified facility dog, if available, accompany them while testifying in court.

(c) A party seeking the use of a certified facility dog must file a notice with the court that includes the certification of the dog, the name of the person or entity who certified the dog, and evidence that the dog is insured.

(d) To ensure that the presence of a certified facility dog does not influence the jury or is not a reflection on the truthfulness of any testimony that is offered by the victim or witness, the court shall instruct the jury on the role of the facility dog and inform the jury that the certified facility dog is a trained animal.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]