Scanlon, Miller-Meeks Introduce Courtroom Dogs Act to Support Trauma Victims
Washington, June 24, 2021
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05) and Mariannette Miller Meeks (IA-02) today introduced the bipartisan Courtroom Dogs Act to grant the Department of Justice (DOJ) the authority to develop best practice guidelines for the use of support dogs in federal courts.
The Courtroom Dogs Act, which was also introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators John Cornyn (TX) and Dianne Feinstein (CA), would require the DOJ to issue guidelines for consistent practice when using dogs in court. These guidelines would ensure more individuals involved in court proceedings have access to support dogs, identify and eliminate any prejudice or risk the presence of these dogs could pose, and ensure court proceedings function well.
“Before I came to Congress, I spent 30 years as a public interest lawyer, representing women, families, and children. One of the challenges of representing victims of crime and abuse, particularly children, is that testifying in court can be scary and inflict additional trauma,” said Rep. Scanlon. “Allowing participants in court proceedings to have the comfort of a therapy dog is one small step we can take to ensure our most vulnerable victims have the support they need when testifying. I am proud to introduce this bill alongside my colleague Rep. Miller-Meeks and grateful to Senators Cornyn and Feinstein for their work on this bipartisan, bicameral bill.”
“Testifying and appearing in court can be a difficult and stressful endeavor, particularly when discussing traumatic events. We should aid witnesses to be calm and comfortable during testimony, especially when they may be face-to-face with their assailant,” said Rep. Miller-Meeks. “The Courtroom Dogs Act is an excellent step to support witnesses while in court. I appreciate Rep. Scanlon for partnering with me on this issue, and I look forward to working with her, as well as Senators Cornyn and Feinstein, to see this legislation become law.”
The use of support dogs in the courtroom as a mechanism for calming and supporting individuals involved in court proceedings has expanded rapidly in the United States. The scientific evidence for the physical and mental calming effects of appropriately bred and trained dogs is overwhelming.
The Courtroom Dogs Act is supported by the Courthouse Dogs Foundation, the National District Attorneys Association, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
You can read the full bill text here.