A recent ruling by Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a lower court's order to allow a witness to use an Emotional Support Animal while testifying. In this case, the Emotional Support Animal was a Labrador-Golden Retriever mix from the Chester County Sherriff's department. What is an Emotional Support Animal, you ask?
According to NOLO, an emotional support animal "is a pet that is not trained to perform specific acts directly related to an individual's psychiatric disability. Instead, the pet's owner simply derives a sense of well-being, safety, or calm from the dog's companionship and physical presence."
The Supreme Court found the use of the Emotional Support Animal by a young, autistic witness did not unfairly influence the jury. The Court found the lower Court took precautions by having the dog enter and exit the courtroom outside of the jury's presence, and the dog was out of view of the jurors while the witness testified.
The Supreme Court Chief Justice wrote,
"After careful consideration, we adopt this well-reasoned standard for purposes of Pennsylvania jurisprudence. In our view, this balancing test appropriately guides a trial court to consider carefully the extent to which a comfort dog may assist a witness with providing truthful testimony while balancing the need for that accommodation against potential prejudice to the defendant."
To read more about the case and the use of Emotional Support Animals, click here.
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