SECTION 1. Section 23E of Chapter 233 as appearing in the 2016 official Edition is hereby amended by inserting the following new section 23E 1/2:-
23E 1/2. Section 1. Purpose
Victims and witnesses of violent crimes who testify in court often suffer unimaginable stress and anxiety as they relive the events surrounding the crime during their testimony. Certified facility dogs who are trained to provide emotional support in a courtroom setting have been used in courthouses across the country to help ease tension and to aid witnesses in providing accurate testimony.
Section 2. Definitions
Certified Facility Dog: a dog who has graduated from an assistance dog organization that is accredited by Assistance Dogs International or a similar internationally recognized nonprofit 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 and placement.
Section 3. Facility dogs; use in court; procedure
(a) The court shall allow a witness testifying in a violent crime proceeding who is either under eighteen years of age or who has a developmental disability to have a certified facility dog, if available, accompany them while testifying in court.
(b) The court may allow any witness who does not meet the criteria provided for in subsection (a) of this Section to have a certified facility dog, if available, accompany them while testifying in court.
(c) A party seeking the use of a certified facility dog must file a notice with the court that includes the certification of the dog, the name of the person or entity who certified the dog, and evidence that the dog is insured.
(d) To ensure that the presence of a certified facility dog does not influence the jury or is not a reflection on the truthfulness of any testimony that is offered by the victim or witness, the court shall instruct the jury on the role of the facility dog and inform the jury that the certified facility dog is a trained animal.
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