Full Statute Name:  Code of Alabama. Title 12. Courts. Chapter 21. Evidence and Witnesses. Article 1. General Provisions. Division 2. Witnesses. Subdivision 1. Generally. § 12-21-148. Use of certified facility dog in certain legal proceedings.

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Primary Citation:  Ala.Code 1975 § 12-21-147 -148 Country of Origin:  United States Last Checked:  April, 2019 Date Adopted:  2017
Summary: This Alabama law from 2017 covers use of both registered therapy dogs and registered facility dogs in certain legal proceedings. A "registered therapy dog" is defined as "[a] trained emotional support dog that has been tested and registered by a nonprofit therapy dog organization that sets standards and requirements for the health, welfare, task work, and oversight for therapy dogs and their handlers . . ." A "certified facility dog" is defined as "[a] trained working dog that is a graduate of an assistance dog organization, a nonprofit organization that sets standards of training for the health, welfare, task work, and oversight for assistance dogs and their handlers . . ." Both must meet minimum standards including minimum months/years of training, documentation showing graduation from an assistance dog organization, a current health certificate, and proof of at least $500,000 in liability insurance. During trial proceedings, all precautions should be taken to obscure the presence of the dog from the jury.

§ 12-21-147. Use of registered therapy dog in certain legal proceedings.

(a) For purposes of this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

(1) Active member. Therapy dog teams who have had recorded visits at facilities including hospitals, nursing homes, libraries, and extended care facilities in the past 18 months.

(2) Registered handler. A volunteer registered by the court system as a therapy dog handler who has not been convicted of sexual, animal, or domestic abuse or any felony, who has been registered by a qualifying therapy dog organization, and has taken an oath of confidentiality. An officer of the court may be a handler only if there is no expense to the state.

(3) Registered therapy dog.

a. A trained emotional support dog that has been tested and registered by a nonprofit therapy dog organization that sets standards and requirements for the health, welfare, task work, and oversight for therapy dogs and their handlers, including at a minimum, all of the following:

1. A current annual certificate of health from an Alabama veterinarian on a form designed by the nonprofit therapy dog organization.

2. Markings identifying the dog as a therapy dog while working.

3. An identification card or badge to be prominently displayed on the handler.

4. A minimum of 18 months of recorded visits in institutions such as hospitals, libraries, and nursing homes providing therapy and emotional support to people of all ages, and must have passed a test administered by a nonprofit therapy dog organization demonstrating the dog and handler are qualified to access public buildings and interact with the public.

5. Proof of liability insurance in the minimum amount of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) for each therapy dog working in the court system which may be provided through a nonprofit therapy dog organization.

b. Notwithstanding the requirements of paragraph a., a handler with a dog having the appropriate temperament may be tested by a certified Alabama law enforcement canine officer with a minimum of two years’ experience for the ability to be registered as a therapy dog for use in certain legal proceedings.

(4) Therapy dog organization. A nationally registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit therapy dog organization that has been continuously active for a minimum of three years as a therapy dog organization with at least 100 active therapy dog teams nationwide and with active members in Alabama.

(b) In a legal proceeding, to reduce the stress of the witness and to enhance the ability of the court to obtain full and accurate testimony, the court may allow a registered therapy dog to accompany a victim or witness while testifying, or in other court proceedings if a registered therapy dog is available.

(c) If the court, in its sole discretion, grants the use of a registered therapy dog, the registered therapy dog shall be accompanied by a registered handler who has received instruction from the district attorney's office on the protocols and policies of legal proceedings for that circuit and the role of the registered therapy dog and registered handler to assure there is no interference with the collection of evidence and testimony or the administration of justice.

(d) If a jury has been empaneled in the legal proceeding, the registered therapy dog shall be accompanied by the registered handler to the witness stand with the witness outside of the presence of the jury and the registered handler shall return to his or her position in the courtroom within view of the witness stand. Subsequently, the jury shall be seated and the court shall inform the jury of the presence of the registered therapy dog and instruct the jury that the presence of a registered therapy dog should not create any prejudice to any party.

(e) During trial proceedings all precautions should be taken to obscure the presence of a registered therapy dog from the jury.

(f) Markings identifying the dog as a registered therapy dog while working must be visible.

(g) Subject to the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure, if requested by either party in a legal proceeding, the court may examine and confirm the credentials of the registered therapy dog and registered handler.

(h) Registered therapy dogs and handlers shall not be dismissed from any therapy dog organization for following the rules and procedures in this section or those set by the court.

(i) Prior to the use of a registered therapy dog in a court proceeding the state or moving party must file a notice of intent to use the registered therapy dog.

(j) A judge may award costs from the judge's discretionary fund to the registered handler to offset some of the financial cost of using the dog in legal proceedings.

Credits

(Act 2017-413, §§ 2-4.)

 

§ 12-21-148. Use of certified facility dog in certain legal proceedings.

(a) For the purposes of this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

(1) Certified facility dog.

A trained working dog that is a graduate of an assistance dog organization, a nonprofit organization that sets standards of training for the health, welfare, task work, and oversight for assistance dogs and their handlers, and shall have at a minimum all of the following:

a. Two years of training and must have passed the same public-access test as a service dog.

b. Documentation showing that the certified facility dog has graduated from an assistance dog organization.

c. A current annual certificate of health from an Alabama veterinarian.

d. Proof of liability insurance in the minimum amount of five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000).

(2) Certified handler. A certified handler who has received training from an assistance dog organization and has received training on the protocols and policies of legal proceedings and the role of the certified facility dog and certified handler to assure there is no interference with the collection of evidence and testimony, or the administration of justice.

(b) In a legal proceeding, to reduce the stress of a witness and to enhance the ability of the court to obtain full and accurate testimony, the court may allow a certified facility dog to accompany a victim or witness while testifying, or in other court proceedings, if a certified facility dog is available.

(c) If the court, in its sole discretion, grants the use of a certified facility dog, and a jury has been empaneled in the legal proceeding, the certified facility dog shall be accompanied by the certified handler to the witness stand with the witness outside of the presence of the jury, and the certified handler shall return to his or her position in the courtroom within view of the witness stand. Subsequently the jury shall be seated and the court shall instruct the jury on the presence of the certified facility dog and that the presence of a certified facility dog should not create any prejudice to any party.

(d) During trial proceedings, all precautions should be taken to obscure the presence of the dog from the jury.

(e) Markings identifying the dog as a certified facility dog while working must be visible.

(f) Subject to the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure, if requested by either party in a legal proceeding, the court may examine and confirm the credentials of the certified facility dog and certified handler.

(g) Prior to the use of a certified facility dog in a court proceeding the state or moving party must file a notice of intent to use the registered therapy dog.

Credits

(Act 2017-413, § 6.)

 

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