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Rosie's Law Would Allow Judges To Decide On Witnesses' Use Of Facility Dogs

Two New York state lawmakers from the Hudson Valley are behind legislation that would grant judges greater leeway to permit facility dogs in the courtroom in an effort to help certain witnesses through difficult testimony.

Freshman Democratic state Senator Terry Gipson is sponsoring Rosie’s Law, named for the first assistance dog allowed by a New York court to accompany a witness during testimony. In this case, Rosie accompanied a girl known as Jessica during the proceedings, in a child and sexual abuse case, in Gipson’s district. Here’s Gipson.

He says current law pertaining to facility dogs and witnesses is narrow in scope.

Kathleen Murphy is executive director of the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse of Dutchess County. Jessica’s case came through her organization, and she is very much in favor of the law.

She says the case is on appeal because the defense views the girl as having had an unfair advantage by having the dog at her side. The dog was in the witness box, out of view of the jury.

Rosie, a golden retriever who died in November at age 13, was specially trained to sit for hours and clue into the stress of the witness, and nudge her when she froze.

Democratic Assemblyman Frank Skartados, whose district includes the City of Poughkeepsie, is sponsoring the bill in his house. He says it’s a common-sense law.

Kellyann Kostyal-Larrier is executive director of Safe Homes of Orange County, in Newburgh, a not-for-profit agency that provides domestic violence services to victims and their families. She had not yet heard of the proposed law but says it sounds positive for victims.

Again, Rosie’s Law would give judges the discretion to allow service dogs for not only kids, but for anyone, on the defense or prosecution side, deemed in need of such assistance.

Since Rosie’s death, Rosie’s sister Ivy served as a facility dog, though she died last month. Ace, Rosie’s grandson named for an Iraq War veteran, is in training at Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities, and will be ready for service in a month or so.

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