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Statutes Text

Article - Courts and Judicial Proceedings




§9–501.

    (a)    (1)    In this section the following words have the meanings indicated.

        (2)    “Child witness” means a witness who is a minor when the witness testifies in a court proceeding.

        (3)    “Facility dog” means a dog that has:

            (i)    Graduated from a program of an assistance dog organization that is a member of a nationally recognized assistance dog association; and

            (ii)    Been teamed with a facility dog handler.

        (4)    “Facility dog handler” means a person who has received training on:

            (i)    Offering the person’s animal for assistance purposes from an organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International or an equivalent organization; and

            (ii)    Court protocol and policies, including the expected role of an animal assistance team and how not to interfere with evidence collection or the effective administration of justice.

        (5)    “Program” means the Court Dog and Child Witness Program.

        (6)    “Therapy dog” means a dog that has:

            (i)    Received training to provide affection and comfort to individuals who need emotional support;

            (ii)    Been teamed with a therapy dog handler; and

            (iii)    1.    Graduated from a program operated by an organization that registers or certifies therapy dogs and their handlers to meet or exceed the standards of practice in animal–assisted interventions; or

                2.    Been specially trained to provide emotional support to witnesses testifying in judicial proceedings without causing a distraction.

        (7)    “Therapy dog handler” means a person who has received training on:

            (i)    Offering the person’s animal for assistance purposes from an organization that insures, registers, or certifies therapy dogs and their handlers; and

            (ii)    Court protocol and policies, including the expected role of an animal assistance team and how not to interfere with evidence collection or the effective administration of justice.

    (b)    (1)    There is a Court Dog and Child Witness Program.

        (2)    The Program shall be in the circuit court of each county that participates in the Program.

        (3)    Participation in the Program shall be voluntary.

        (4)    A participating court shall adhere to the procedures adopted in accordance with this section by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

    (c)    The purpose of the Program is to provide a facility dog or therapy dog to a child witness in any circuit court proceeding or other related court process, meeting, or interview in the State, including:

        (1)    An in camera review or other interaction with a judge or a magistrate;

        (2)    A meeting with an attorney, best interest attorney, privilege attorney, or other specialized attorney; or

        (3)    A meeting with a custody evaluator.

    (d)    To accomplish the purpose of the Program, the Administrative Office of the Courts shall:

        (1)    Develop a plan to implement the Program;

        (2)    Establish the procedures that a party in a court proceeding must follow to request that a therapy dog and therapy dog handler or facility dog and facility dog handler assist a child witness; and

        (3)    Ensure that the details of the Program are publicly available.

    (e)    The Administrative Office of the Courts may adopt procedures to implement this section.



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