Presentation to MA District Court

Start Date: 2019/11/15

Description: The presiding judge of the MA District Court heard from a friend who had observed HOPE dogs in a domestic violence shelter in eastern Washington state. The judge wanted to learn about how he might use a comfort dog in his courthouse. The court clerk contacted me and invited a visit. I studied the history of dogs in court, collected literature, discussed experiences with two HOPE members who had extensively used their dogs in court. Meg and I had a delightful meeting with the judge, an assistant district attorney, several prosecutors, a victim advocate, plus staff and security officers. I described the roles of therapy dogs, crisis response and service dogs, what HOPE dogs do and where/how we have served. He asked questions about a dog on the witness stand and during depositions and whether the handler had to be present. I explained the leash requirements—he had contemplated only the dog present. I indicated that if they wanted a dog there every day, they might consider a trained facility dog. I referred him to a Boston district attorney who hired such a dog in 2014, tried to get state legislation passed in 2016, and failed. (The judge knew the person and would contact him). I left the, with therapy dog, HOPE, and Courthouse Dogs Foundation literature, and an article about defense attorney objections to dogs in court. I explained HOPE member training, confidentiality, and annual background checks. I offered to return after they had further internal discussions. I offered to bring Meg or Brinkley back for a “demonstration” in a specific traumatic case. I did indicate their location was too far for HOPE dogs to come on every day or every week. The judge took a selfie with Meg : )

Agency: MA District Court
Teams: None