Poughkeepsie Journal: New legislation would expand dogs' role in court

 

    Yesterday I stood with Assemblyman Frank Skartados to introduce ‘Rosie’s Law,’ which is named after Rosie, the first judicially approved courtroom dog in New York State. With Rosie’s help, a 15-year-old girl (known in the case as “Jessica”) from Dutchess County was able to provide testimony against her abuser. The bill would permit judges the discretion to allow certain witnesses to be accompanied by a facility dog when providing testimony. We were joined by: Dutchess County Assistant District Attorney Kristine Hawlk (Senior Prosecutor in Jessica’s case); Ellen Stephens-O'Neill, Esq., Founder, Courthouse Dogs Foundation; and Celeste Walsen, DVM, Executive Director and their Courthouse Dog, Molly; Kathleen Murphy, Executive Director, The Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse; Dutchess County Legislator Jim Doxsey; Dale Picard, Executive Director, Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities, with facility dogs and staff; Lori Stella, LMSW, Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie (Jessica’s therapist during the trial); Sherry Cookinham, Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie’s licensed dog trainer, (who handled Rosie during the trial,) and Dutchess County Legislator James Doxsey, of Poughkeepsie.

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    State Sen. Terry Gipson, D-Rhinebeck, has introduced legislation that would allow facility dogs in New York courts to provide comfort to victims or witnesses during testimony.

     

    Facility dogs are used to aid children during testimonies. This new legislation would expand the service to include adults who experienced violent crimes or sexual assault. The proposed legislation would be the first of its kind in the country, Gipson said.

     

    “We have presented a law to the state Senate called Rosie’s Law that would give judges, for the first time ever in New York state … the discretion so that any vulnerable witness that the judge felt needed comfort … would have access to a courthouse facility dog,” Gipson said during a news conference at the Capitol.

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