Therapy dogs in court rooms

MARYLAND– A bill recently passed by the Maryland Senate aims to provide therapy dogs to child witnesses in circuit court hearings and proceedings across the state.

“I really feel that they can be beneficial to the children because they can speak directly to the dog and not to the grown up. The grown up can ask the questions, but the dog can listen to the answers,” Bev Hornor,  Wicomico County Coordinator for Pets on Wheels Delmarva Incorporated, said.

Hornor said children can often feel anxious or scared in court room settings. She said having a therapy dog with them could help ease some of those feelings.

“It will bring a comfort to them a sense of calmness and who doesn’t want to see a dog and pet a dog, and it makes them smile, and it might help them articulate better what they have to say,” Hornor said.

But some like Lt. Tim Robinson with the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office have concerns about the bill.

“There is a possibility of it being a positive, but there is also a possibility of it being a negative. It could potentially be a distraction,” Robinson said.

Despite those concerns, a similar statewide program was proposed in 2016. It went through a test run in Anne Arundel and Harford Counties and was deemed “effective.”

“I think it’s a good thing they have going and I think they’ve seen some success with it thus far,” Talvird Jackson, a dog trainer, said.

We are told that a handler would accompany each dog under the bill.

The legislation is now waiting to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee.

47ABC reached out to Senators Addie Eckardt and Mary Beth Carozza and they both said they are in favor of this bill.

Categories: Local News, Maryland