Man's best friend is now officially allowed to take the stand with children and vulnerable adults.
Flagler Clerk of Court Tom Bexley has no issue with HB 151, a bill recently signed by Gov. Rick Scott allowing therapy dogs and other animals in the courtroom.
Bexley said there is no question that any law on the books would be accommodated, but the courthouse had already allowed a therapy animal in the courtroom – specifically a spider monkey.
“Years ago a woman asked to be allowed to take her spider monkey on the stand with her,” Bexley said. “It was allowed and she got through her testimony.”
In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, no service dog wearing his vest and badge is going to be denied access into a government building, but Bexley sees a broader definition.
“If the animal provides comfort and helps them get through a proceeding I say, “God bless you,” he said. “This is everyone’s building and you should be able to bring in a pet if you want to.”
Pets would have to be on leashes, well-behaved and not cause a disturbance.
Gov. Scott’s bill specifically addresses children, victims and individuals with intellectual disabilities to use therapy animals and facility dogs in legal proceedings involving child abuse, abandonment and neglect.
“This legislation will help children and individuals with unique abilities in our state as they face some of the most challenging times in their life. I cannot imagine the emotional toll these terrible circumstances place on our state’s most vulnerable populations,” Scott said. “The comfort and support provided by therapy animals can make a profound difference in someone’s life and I’m proud to sign HB 151 today.”