Courthouse Dogs Going Statewide

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Helping those in need has been one of my core objectives in the Senate. Whether it is vulnerable veterans, seniors or children, I have championed legislation to help them.

This year, I am working to make the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Dog Program for children a statewide program. Several years ago, I passed legislation to pilot such a program in Anne Arundel and Harford counties.

The pilot program has been very successful and well received by all involved.

The Circuit Court Dog Program was created after many hours of researching what could be done to help children in court settings. Many children are required to testify in court, and it can be an intimidating and terrifying experience. As I talked with many associated with our courts and others in different states about including trained dogs in our court system, I was encouraged to proceed to create the program in Maryland.

Children may be required to testify in a case involving sexual assaults, domestic violence or some other horrific crime, or even in a nasty divorce case. In any event, having a highly trained and comforting dog next to them creates a calming environment, and the truth is easier to extract from the child.

The program I created is voluntary for the court system, but if they agree to participate, it sets up the protocols and rules that must be adhered to by the court. Additionally, the training requirements for the dog and the dog handler are defined to ensure a proper setting.

This program would not have been possible without all the amazing personnel at our courts, States Attorney’s Office, dog training facilities, dog handlers, my staff, and all the behind-the-scenes personnel and advocates.

Great programs take great people, and this program has been blessed to have so many great people.

Therefore, this year I submitted Senate Bill 101 to take the Circuit Court Dog Program statewide. It is my hope that this expansion will help so many more children throughout the state.

The first hearing will start in January and continue through April, if we are to pass this legislation. To follow the progress of this bill or to provide a letter of support for it, please contact my office at bryan.simonaire@senate.state.md.us or call my office at 410-841-3658.

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