Therapy Dogs Bring Comfort to the Courtroom

Courts in several states allow stress-detecting dogs to face the stand with child witnesses.
by | August 11, 2011 AT 3:00 PM

Testifying as a witness in a court case can be stressful, even more so if the person is the victim of an alleged crime. To make the experience as comfortable as possible, courts in several states allow specially trained dogs to sit on the stand next to children and other vulnerable witnesses, reports the New York Times. The dogs are trained to detect stress and respond with some form of comfort, like a nuzzle. Dogs were first used for this purpose in 2003 for a sexual assault case in Seattle and has since given more canines courtroom jobs in states like Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana and New York. The practice has recently been questioned in light of a Duchess County, N.Y., case where a therapy dog was present as a 15-year-old girl testified against her father, who was later convicted of raping and impregnating her. The defense attorneys plan to file an appeal, arguing that the natural empathy a person feels for an animal may unfairly transfer to witnesses.