Full Statute Name:  West's Annotated Code of Maryland. Courts and Judicial Proceedings. Title 9. Witnesses. Subtitle 5. Court Dog Program. § 9-501. Court Dog Program

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Primary Citation:  MD Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings, § 9-501 Country of Origin:  United States Last Checked:  December, 2021 Date Adopted:  2021 Historical: 
Summary: This statute, enacted in 2020, creates a Court Dog Program for Maryland for participating counties. The program functions in a circuit court that participates in the Program and provides a facility dog or therapy dog to a child witness in the circuit court proceeding or other related court process, meeting, or interview in the State. It also operates in a circuit court or District Court that offers a veterans treatment court program where it provides a facility dog or therapy dog to a veteran participating in a veterans treatment court proceeding or other related court process or meeting in the State.

Definitions

(a)(1) In this section the following words have the meanings indicated.

(2) “Child witness” means a witness who is a minor when the witness testifies in a court proceeding.

(3) “Facility dog” means a dog that has:

(i) Graduated from a program of an assistance dog organization that is a member of a nationally recognized assistance dog association; and

(ii) Been teamed with a facility dog handler.

(4) “Facility dog handler” means a person who has received training on:

(i) Offering the person's animal for assistance purposes from an organization accredited by Assistance Dogs International or an equivalent organization; and

(ii) Court protocol and policies, including the expected role of an animal assistance team and how not to interfere with evidence collection or the effective administration of justice.

(5) “Program” means the Court Dog Program.

(6) “Therapy dog” means a dog that has:

(i) Received training to provide affection and comfort to individuals who need emotional support;

(ii) Been teamed with a therapy dog handler; and

(iii) 1. Graduated from a program operated by an organization that registers or certifies therapy dogs and their handlers to meet or exceed the standards of practice in animal-assisted interventions;

or

2. Been specially trained to provide emotional support to witnesses testifying in judicial proceedings without causing a distraction.

(7) “Therapy dog handler” means a person who has received training on:

(i) Offering the person's animal for assistance purposes from an organization that insures, registers, or certifies therapy dogs and their handlers; and

(ii) Court protocol and policies, including the expected role of an animal assistance team and how not to interfere with evidence collection or the effective administration of justice.

(8) “Veteran” means a person who served on active duty in the uniformed services of the United States, other than for training, and was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.

(9) “Veterans treatment court” means a court-supervised, comprehensive, and voluntary treatment-based program for veterans.

In general

(b)(1) There is a Court Dog Program.

(2) The Program shall be:

(i) In the circuit court of each county that participates in the Program; and

(ii) In the District Court of each county that participates in the Program, if the District Court offers a veterans treatment court program.

(3) Participation in the Program shall be voluntary.

(4) A participating court shall adhere to the procedures adopted in accordance with this section by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Purposes of Program

(c) The purposes of the Program are to:

(1) In a circuit court that participates in the Program, provide a facility dog or therapy dog to a child witness in the circuit court proceeding or other related court process, meeting, or interview in the State, including:

(i) An in camera review or other interaction with a judge or a magistrate;

(ii) A meeting with an attorney, best interest attorney, privilege attorney, or other specialized attorney; or

(iii) A meeting with a custody evaluator; and

(2) In a circuit court or District Court that offers a veterans treatment court program, provide a facility dog or therapy dog to a veteran participating in a veterans treatment court proceeding or other related court process or meeting in the State, including:

(i) A status review with a judge or magistrate;

(ii) A meeting with an attorney; or

(iii) A meeting with a probation, pretrial, or court case manager.

Duties of Administrative Office of the Courts

(d) To accomplish the purpose of the Program, the Administrative Office of the Courts shall:

(1) Develop a plan to implement the Program;

(2) Establish the procedures that a party in a court proceeding must follow to request that a therapy dog and therapy dog handler or facility dog and facility dog handler assist a child witness or a veteran participating in a veterans treatment court; and

(3) Ensure that the details of the Program are publicly available.

Adoption of procedures to implement this section

(e) The Administrative Office of the Courts may adopt procedures to implement this section.

Credits
Added by Acts 2020, c. 161, § 1, eff. Oct. 1, 2020; Acts 2020, c. 162, § 1, eff. Oct. 1, 2020. Amended by Acts 2021, c. 181, § 1, eff. Oct. 1, 2021; Acts 2021, c. 182, § 1, eff. Oct. 1, 2021.

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