Legislation that passed in the Maryland Senate would establish statewide an initiative to provide therapy dogs to child witnesses in circuit court hearings and proceedings. Children who have to appear in court can feel anxious and overwhelmed, especially when recounting tragic events or similar instances, proponents said. A handler would accompany each dog, under the bill. The Court Dog and Child Witness Program was implemented several years ago in the Anne Arundel County and Harford County circuit courts to help ease the fears and emotions of child witnesses with the aid of “a facility dog or therapy dog,” according to a state analysis. A “facility dog” often stays full time in places with patients, like a nursing home, to help people suffering from mental illness, for example. Therapy dogs are used for emotional support and comfort, but not as often. Senate bill 101 was created as a response to the successes of this program, which has been running just in those jurisdictions. Lead sponsor Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel, has been at the forefront of this legislation in Maryland. He first proposed a similar statewide program in 2016, but it evolved into the pilot program run in Anne Arundel […]
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