Across the country, courts and prosecutorial offices have begun to use dogs to assist victims of crimes who but for the demonstrated calming presence of a dog would be too emotionally distraught to give live testimony in trials against their alleged perpetrators. The use of service animals for this purpose has proven particularly useful for young children.
This article examines the budding use of this type of therapeutic jurisprudence in the criminal justice system. Recognizing that using dogs for emotional support during trial finds no clear recognition under the law yet, the article analyzes how proponents may draw analogies to the current use of comfort items such as dolls during the presentation of testimony.
The article concludes that sound legal and public policy reasons exist for allowing the use of service dogs to assist emotionally traumatized witnesses giving testimony in open court, but only in cases where the witness can present a truly compelling need for such support.