(1) Courts are authorized to exercise discretion permitting a courthouse facility dog to be used in any judicial proceeding.
(2) Courts with an available courthouse facility dog must allow a witness under eighteen years of age, or who has a developmental disability as defined in RCW 71A.10.020, to use a courthouse facility dog to accompany them while testifying in court.
(3) Courts may allow any witness who does not meet the criteria in subsection (2) of this section to use a courthouse facility dog, if available, to accompany them while testifying in court.
(4) A courthouse facility dog accompanied by a certified handler is authorized to access: (a) Any courthouse; (b) any location where the courthouse facility dog and certified handler provide services, participate in administrative activities of the courthouse facility dog program, engage in community outreach, or participate in training activities; (c) any location related to a law enforcement investigation where law enforcement requests their presence; and (d) matters pending in the civil or criminal justice system. Authorized locations include, but are not limited to, places of public accommodation as defined in RCW 49.60.040, all modes of public transportation, children's advocacy centers, schools, day care facilities, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors' offices, attorneys' offices, medical facilities, specialty courts, and court-appointed special advocates and guardian ad litem program offices. A certified handler may be asked to show their identification card, provided by the accredited assistance dog organization that trained and certified the handler, to establish that they are a certified handler and that a courthouse facility dog they are accompanying is authorized to access the locations identified in this section.
(5) Before the introduction of a courthouse facility dog into the courtroom and outside the presence of the jury, the party desiring to use the assistance of a courthouse facility dog must file a motion setting out: (a) The credentials of the courthouse facility dog; (b) that the courthouse facility dog is adequately insured; (c) that a relationship has been established between the witness and the courthouse facility dog in anticipation of testimony; and (d) reasons why the courthouse facility dog would help reduce the witness's anxiety and elicit the witness's testimony. The motion may be filed in writing or made orally before the court.
(6) When the court finds the circumstances warrant the presence of a courthouse facility dog, the court must state the basis for its decision on the record. The witness should be afforded the opportunity to have a courthouse facility dog accompany the witness while testifying, if a courthouse facility dog and certified handler are available within the jurisdiction of the court in which the proceeding is held.
(7) If the court grants the motion filed under subsection (5) of this section, a certified handler must be present in the courtroom to advocate for the courthouse facility dog as necessary. The courthouse facility dog performing this service should be trained to accompany the witness to the stand without being attached to a certified handler by a leash and lie on the floor out of view of the jury while the witness testifies.
(8) In a jury trial, the following provisions apply:
(a) In the course of jury selection, either party may, with the court's approval, voir dire prospective jury members on whether the presence of a courthouse facility dog to assist a witness would create undue sympathy for the witness or cause prejudice to a party in any other way.
(b) To the extent possible, the court shall ensure that the jury will be unable to observe the courthouse facility dog prior to, during, and subsequent to the witness's testimony.
(c) On request of either party, the court shall present appropriate jury instructions that are designed to prevent any prejudice that might result from the presence of the courthouse facility dog before the witness testifies and at the conclusion of the trial.
(9) Courts may adopt rules for the use of a courthouse facility dog authorized under this section.
(10)(a) Each accredited assistance dog organization that trains and certifies courthouse facility dog handlers must issue an identification card to each handler it certifies that works with courthouse facility dogs in Washington.
(b) The identification card must (i) clearly state it is a “Certified Courthouse Facility Dog Handler” identification; (ii) include the complete legal name of the certified handler; and (iii) provide the name of and contact information for the accredited assistance dog organization that trained and certified the handler.
(c) The identification card must further state “Any courthouse facility dog accompanied by a certified handler is legally authorized to access all courthouses, places of public accommodation as defined in RCW 49.60.040, public transportation, children's advocacy centers, schools, day care facilities, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors' offices, attorneys' offices, medical facilities, specialty courts, court-appointed special advocates and guardian ad litem program offices, and all other locations identified in RCW 10.52.110.”
(11) For purposes of this section:
(a) “Certified handler” means a person who (i) was trained to handle a courthouse facility dog by an accredited assistance dog organization and (ii) is a professional working in the legal system who is knowledgeable about its practices including, but not limited to, victim advocates, forensic interviewers, detectives, prosecuting attorneys, and guardians ad litem.
(b) “Courthouse facility dog” means a dog that: (i) Has graduated from a program of an assistance dog organization that is accredited by a recognized organization whose main purpose is to grant accreditation to assistance dog organizations based on standards of excellence in all areas of assistance dog acquisition, training of the dogs and their certified handlers, and placement; (ii) demonstrates continued proficiency in providing safe and reliable services through ongoing training according to the assistance dog organization's training standards; (iii) was specially selected to provide services in the legal system to provide quiet companionship to witnesses and potential witnesses during stressful interviews, examinations, meetings, and other encounters associated with a law enforcement investigation, and legal proceedings, thereby enabling them to better engage with the process; and (iv) travels as needed with a certified handler as a team to and from authorized locations for training, community outreach, and other purposes associated with the operations of a courthouse facility dog program established in this section.
[2023 c 59 § 2, eff. July 23, 2023; 2019 c 398 § 1, eff. July 28, 2019.]