A Bitch in the Courtroom? Rosie the Therapy Dog Gets Questioned

by Casey Krosser

Need another reason to love dogs?  Today I learned that there are dogs trained to be therapy for traumatized children.  According to the New York Times , Rosie the golden retriever recently helped a 15-year-old girl testify in court that her father raped her, and had gotten her pregnant.  Court rooms are terrifying enough, and with the trauma she went through it’s truly a miracle that anything could comfort her in that situation.  Which is why it’s baffling to me that this dog is now under legal debate.

In an ideal world, the whole jury would be on the girl’s side from the beginning.  They would listen to the facts of the story, and realize how courageous that girl was to be testifying at all.  If having a dog there offers the support someone needs to be able to tell the truth, it is necessary.  But apparently there are worries that the dog was swaying the jury.  I wonder, if the girl had been holding a teddy bear, would that have distracted the jury too?  What if it were a really, really cute and cuddly teddy bear?  One gem from the defense lawyer was that Rosie the dog, “…infected the trial with such unfairness that it constituted a violation of their client’s constitutional rights,” (NYT.com).  This unfairness, of course, springs from Rosie’s distracting cuteness as a dog.  

If the jury is that distracted by the dog, then they’re probably not paying attention to the case anyway.  What do you think about this?  Should dogs be allowed in court rooms to comfort people with their emotional traumas?  Or are they just too darn cute and distracting?

Since the case with the 15-year-old girl, Rosie the dog has gone on to work with two girls, ages 5 and 11, as they prepare to testify against a man accused of murdering their mother.  I only hope that they’ll be able to have their friend Rosie with them as they bravely take the stand.

SOURCES: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/09/nyregion/dog-helps-rape-victim-15-testify.html?pagewanted=1

Photo by Kelly Shimoda for The New York Times

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