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Canines make their mark in the court system

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During a time of great distress when a child must face their abuser, the company of a canine companion will make the process less traumatic (Grimm, 2013). In People v. Tohom, the court decided that the presence of a dog, aiding in witness testimony of a sexually abused child, hindered Tohom from his 6th Amendment right to a fair jury trial (Grimm, 2013). The argument at hand is whether or not "therapy" or "service" dogs should be allowed to aid witnesses while giving testimony.

The title a dog holds has substantial relevancy. A " service" dog is formally trained to aid with the needs of his or her human companion and a "therapy" dog is utilized in Animal Assisted Therapy accompanied by a dog handler to perform therapeutic tasks. It is important to note that semantics are essential because there must be legal recognition of services. Services provided by therapy dogs are not legally recognized in court and will also raise concern for the child's mental state. An "advocacy" dog, by comparison will maintain the victim's credibility (Grimm, 2013).

Studies show that the presence of a dog in the courtroom has helped severely traumatized victims (Hart-Cohen, 2009). In 1994, Vachss, a German Shepard, was the first "therapy" dog to ever accompany sexually abused children while giving testimony. He was "licensed and trained to work with children" (Hart-Cohen, 2009), meeting the criterion of "service dog". Is it fair to say that Vachss could be both a therapy dog and a service dog? Either way, Vachss is a hero and guided many troubled souls on the stand. Precedent cases have shown to both allow and prohibit canines in the courtroom. From the way the courtroom regulations stand at this present moment, the allowance of dogs in the courtroom is on a case by case basis.


Grimm, A. L. (2013). An examination of why permitting therapy dogs to assist child-victims when testifying during criminal trials should not be permitted. Journal Of Gender, Race & Justice, 16(1), 263-292.

Hart-Cohen, D. S. (2009). Canines in the Courtroom. Gpsolo, 26(5), 54-57.



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