Therapy dogs now allowed in courtroom

Published 3:02 am Thursday, June 29, 2017

On Tuesday. Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation by Sen. Jimmy Holley (R-Elba) to allow the use of therapy dogs in courtrooms. The presence of therapy dogs can help victims of crime stay calm when recounting stressful stories in the presence of the criminal.

Therapy dogs, which the legislation defines as a “trained emotional support dog that has been tested and registered by a non-profit national therapy dog organization,” are often used to help children, the elderly, and people recovering from emotionally traumatic events.

“Justice is best served when a victim of crime is able to tell his or her story clearly in court. If the judge deems it appropriate, then by all means, we should allow therapy dogs as an aid to help reduce stress for vulnerable victims,” Holley said.

As reported in the New York Times, a University of California, Los Angeles, study found a significant reduction in anxiety and blood pressure levels among persons who spent just twelve minutes with a therapy dog versus those who had not.

Holley also sponsored legislation to give therapy dogs the same legal protections as service animals.

“A person who lives in my district came to me over a year ago, and asked if I would be interested in sponsoring legislation to establish legal protections for therapy dogs, as we have already done for service dogs,” explained Holley. “A lot of hospitals, therapists, and counselors are now using therapy dogs to bring comfort to people in hard situations. A kid with cancer, or an elderly person grieving the death of a spouse, can benefit from the presence of a therapy dog, so we should protect these animals from deliberate abuse.”

“I want to thank Representatives Alan Boothe and Mike Jones for their key support in passing both of these bills,” Holley remarked.