Rep Barrett plan allows young victims to utilize courtroom support dogs

first_img Categories: Barrett News 17Apr Rep. Barrett plan allows young victims to utilize courtroom support dogs State Rep. Tom Barrett, right, discusses his legislation with Eaton County Prosecutor Doug Lloyd, center, and investigator Bryan Seratt, while Reagan, the Eaton County canine advocate, waits nearby.State Rep. Tom Barrett was joined today by Reagan, Eaton County’s canine advocate, while speaking before the House Judiciary Committee in support of his plan to help young and vulnerable victims who testify in court.Barrett’s bill allows courtroom support dogs to sit at the feet of certain victims while they take the stand to testify in sex abuse, child abuse and other cases involving serious crimes.“The criminal justice system is intimidating and scary for young victims, especially when they have to take the stand against someone who has hurt them,” Barrett said. “Courtroom support dogs help keep kids calm and give them the emotional strength to relive the traumatic details.”Canine advocates are currently utilized in 28 prosecutor’s offices throughout Michigan, including Eaton County.While current practice and a recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling allow the support dogs to be present during jury trials, Michigan law only technically provides for a “support person.”Barrett said the plan laid out in House Bill 5645 establishes regulations that allow support dogs to be present in court without jeopardizing the rights of the accused. For example, it provides a clear definition for what qualifies as a courtroom support dog.“We’re not talking about amateur dogs taken off the street,” Barrett said. “It will be dogs that are well-trained for the type of work they’re expected to perform who won’t cause a disturbance in the courtroom.”Eaton County Prosecutor Doug Lloyd testified in support of the bill, saying Reagan has helped more than 270 victims in Eaton County.“Reagan’s sole job is to be there for the victim,” Lloyd said. “Reagan sits there with the victim during meetings. He will go into court, sit there, and most of the time do nothing. But, amazingly, he feels the energy the individual is giving out when they get stressed. Reagan’s way to handle that is to put his head on their knee or to touch them on their foot, allowing the victim to know that ‘it’s OK.’”The legislation remains under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee.###last_img

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