The DAWG Act Gives Judges Authority to Allow Certified Facility Dogs to Comfort Witnesses in Courtrooms
Texas Border Business
WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced the Dogs as Witness Guardians (DAWG) Act, which would clarify federal judges’ authority to allow certified facility dogs in courtrooms during legal proceedings. This legislation is based on the successful efforts of many states around the nation and guidance from experts in the field.
“Courtrooms can be difficult places for witnesses who have experienced trauma, particularly children,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation would allow specially trained dogs to support these brave witnesses and minimize the possibility of them re-experiencing traumatic memories.” Background:
When vulnerable witnesses testify, they often experience emotional trauma that impairs their ability to participate, think, or answer questions. The use of certified courthouse dogs in the courtroom has expanded rapidly in the United States as a mechanism for calming and supporting individuals involved in courtroom proceedings. The scientific evidence for the physical and mental calming effects of appropriately bred and trained dogs is overwhelming. Currently, eight states have legislation allowing for the use of certified facility dogs to assist witnesses giving testimony, and eight other states’ courts have determined that the use of certified facility dogs may be appropriate in certain instances.
The Dogs as Witness Guardians (DAWG) Act allows for any party in a federal criminal proceeding to request an order authorizing an available certified courthouse dog to accompany a witness while testifying in federal court.
In order to be certified facility dogs, they must meet the following requirements:
- The dog must have graduated from an assistance dog organization that is a member of an internationally recognized assistance dog association whose primary purpose is based on excellence in the areas of dog acquisition, training, and placement.
- The dog must be accompanied by a trainer who is trained to manage the dog and has knowledge about the legal and criminal justice processes.
Judges may grant the request and enter an order. If the dog is certified, it will aid the witness in providing testimony, and the dog is insured for liability protection.
The DAWG Act is supported by the Courthouse Dogs Foundation, the National District Attorneys Association, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.