Legislation to Allow Therapy and Facility Dogs during Witness Testimony Passes Key Policy Committee

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Legislation to Allow Therapy and Facility Dogs during Witness Testimony Passes Key Policy Committee

 

SACRAMENTO – Today, the Assembly Committee on Public Safety approved AB 411, legislation by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) that provides statutory authorization for the use of therapy and facility dogs during witness testimony in certain cases. AB 411, which passed unanimously on a 7-0 vote, authorizes vulnerable victims and witnesses, including certain child witnesses, to be accompanied by a dog trained in providing emotional support while testifying at a preliminary hearing, trial, or juvenile court.  

 

“Existing law prohibits victims and child witnesses from testifying with the aid of a support dog, even if the proceeding trial judge believes a support dog would be appropriate,” said Assemblymember Bloom. “Testifying during a court case can be a stressful experience for witnesses and victims of crimes; AB 411 will ensure that these individuals have the emotional support they need in a courtroom.”

 

Therapy and Facility dogs are currently used in various counties throughout California. However, while this practice is common, it is not codified in statute. As a result, in the absence of a state law, some presiding judges ruled that only dogs explicitly named in state statute be allowed in court houses. This decision has had the unintended effect of banning therapy and facility dogs from entering court houses. 

 

The value of and right to a therapy dog has been upheld by several court cases. In California, People v. Spence, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s allowance of a therapy dog to accompany a 10-year-old child victim of molestation to the witness stand. Similarly, People v. Chenault upheld the trial court’s allowance of a therapy dog to accompany 11 and 13-year-old girls during testimony.  AB 411 follows these cases and seeks to preserve the integrity of California’s criminal justice system by ensuring that the state provides courts with multiple tools to support witnesses and victims while testifying.

 

Richard Bloom represents California’s 50th Assembly District, which comprises the communities of Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Topanga, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles.