The Mariposa County's District Attorney's Office welcomed K9 Ellie to Victim Witness Services Program in April of 2022. Ellie is three year old, black English Labrador Retriever.
K9 Ellie comes to Mariposa County from Assistance Dogs of the West (ADW). ADW's mission is to build successful working partnerships between clients and dogs that empower people and open doors to new opportunities. The courthouse Facility Dog program at ADW is just one of several programs they have. To find out more about ADW and their impactful work check out their website HERE.
What is a Courthouse Facility Dog?
Courthouse facility K9s are professionally trained dogs working throughout the country in prosecutor's offices, child advocacy centers, and family courts. They primarily provide a calming influence for children during stressful legal proceedings.
Courthouse Facility Dog Vs. Emotional Support Animal
Unlike Courthouse Facility K9 Ellie, emotional support dogs are not considered service dogs under the ADA. Emotional support dogs may be trained for a specific owner, but they are not trained for specific tasks or duties to aid a person with a disability, and this is the main difference between ESAs and service dogs/Courthouse Facility Dogs.
K9 Ellie has over 1500 hours of specialized training from the professional canine training staff at ADW. She has spent nearly two and a half years training with ADW to become a professional working canine. She is trained specifically to work with emotionally dysregulated individuals and to support staff members who encounter these cases.
The Courthouse Facility Dog program derives its authority from California Penal Code Section 868.4. This law, effective in 2018, allows either party in a criminal or juvenile hearing to ask the court for approval to bring a therapy or facility dog for a child witness in a court proceeding involving any serious felony or any other vulnerable victim who is entitled to a support person. Before a therapy or facility dog may be used, the party seeking its use must file a motion with the court that includes:
Before a facility dog may be used, the District Attorney's Office must file a motion with the court that includes:
the training or credentials of the therapy or facility dog;The court may grant the motion unless it finds the use of the therapy or facility dog would cause undue prejudice or be unduly disruptive to the court. Appropriate measures must be taken to assure that the presence of the therapy or facility dog as unobtrusive and nondisruptive as possible
the training of the therapy or facility dog handler; and
facts justifying that the presence of the therapy or facility dog may reduce anxiety or otherwise be helpful to the witness while testifying.
The court may grant the motion unless it finds the use of the facility dog would cause undue prejudice or be unduly disruptive to the court. Appropriate measures must be taken to assure that the presence of the therapy or facility dog as unobtrusive and nondisruptive as possible.