Rosie the Dog and Child Witnesses

It can be extremely difficult for a young child or teen to testify in court. And if that young child also happens to be an alleged victim of physical or sexual abuse, it can be frightening.

That’s where Rosie the dog comes in. Recently in New York, Rosie joined a 15-year-old girl at the witnesses stand during her emotional testimony about being raped and impregnated by her father. When it was difficult to get the words out, Rosie leaned in to comfort this young witness. As the witness continued to answer questions, she also hugged Rosie for comfort.

In the past, New York has allowed stuffed teddy bears to accompany young witnesses to the stand for support. However, to the best of our knowledge, never before have the New York courts allowed a dog like Rosie accompany and comfort a witness stand.

In this case, Rosie is a trained golden retriever and specializes in providing therapy in comforting people when they are under stress. All the lawyers in the courtroom have described Rosie as adorable, though she has been known to slobber.

Although allowed in courtrooms in several other states, the defense attorneys in this case have filed an appeal claiming that Rosie’s presence unnecessarily created a level of sympathy by the jury in favor of the young witness. Although we think this legal argument may have some merit, we believe that the overriding issue is whether or not all the Rosie’s in the country will help give a young victim the strength to tell the truth. If so, then we need more adorable and slobbering Rosies in our courtrooms.

Please share your comments- What are your thoughts? Should dogs like Rosie be allowed to “comfort” alleged victims while testifying at trial?

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