Legislature Passes Measure to Allow Therapy and Facility Dogs during Witness Testimony
SACRAMENTO – Today, the California State Assembly unanimously passed AB 411, authored by Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), which provides statutory authorization for the use of therapy and facility dogs during the testimony of specified victims and child witnesses.
“One of the most effective tools to help prevent psychological harm to a child witness or other vulnerable victim is the use of therapy and facility dogs,” said Assemblymember Richard Bloom. “AB 411 ensures that witnesses and victims will have the emotional support needed to testify in court, regardless of which courtroom they testify in.”
Current practice in courtrooms across California includes the use of therapy and facility dogs; however, there are no statutory rules governing this practice. Due to the lack of statutory guidance over the use of therapy and facility dogs, it is up to the presiding judge of each court to determine whether or not a dog will be permitted in the court house. As a result, in the absence of a state law, child witnesses and victims throughout the state have been denied their right to use therapy and facility dogs when providing testimony.
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 trail court’s allowance of a therapy dog to accompany a 10-year-old victim of molestation to the witness stand. Similarly, People v. Chenault upheld the trail 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.
“The comfort and strength these therapy and facility dogs provide to witnesses improves the legal process because it improves the victim’s testimony,” said Bloom. “The positive effects have been seen in courtrooms throughout the country.”
AB 411 now heads to the Governor’s desk.
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.