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Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Courts
Serving the Citizens of Brevard and Seminole Counties

Therapy or Facility Dog Program

The Chief Judge of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit has determined that the use of therapy animals or facility dogs may be appropriate to assist a person with an intellectual disability or a victim or witness in proceedings involving a sexual offense or child abuse, abandonment or neglect.

Statuatory Guidelines

Section 92.55(4), Florida Statutes enables the court to establish conditions it finds just and appropriate to the use of a therapy animal or facility dog.

2021 Florida Statutes

92.55 Judicial or other proceedings involving victim or witness under the age of 18, a person who has an intellectual disability, or a sexual offense victim or witness; special protections; use of therapy animals or facility dogs.


 
(1) For purposes of this section, the term:
(a) “Sexual offense victim or witness” means a person who was under the age of 18 when he or she was the victim of or a witness to a sexual offense.
(b) “Sexual offense” means any offense specified in s. 775.21(4)(a)1. or s. 943.0435(1)(h)1.a.(I).
(2) Upon motion of any party, upon motion of a parent, guardian, attorney, guardian ad litem, or other advocate appointed by the court under s. 914.17 for a victim or witness under the age of 18, a person who has an intellectual disability, or a sexual offense victim or witness, or upon its own motion, the court may enter any order necessary to protect the victim or witness in any judicial proceeding or other official proceeding from severe emotional or mental harm due to the presence of the defendant if the victim or witness is required to testify in open court. Such orders must relate to the taking of testimony and include, but are not limited to:
(a) Interviewing or the taking of depositions as part of a civil or criminal proceeding.
(b) Examination and cross-examination for the purpose of qualifying as a witness or testifying in any proceeding.
(c) The use of testimony taken outside of the courtroom, including proceedings under ss. 92.53 and 92.54.
(3) In ruling upon the motion, the court shall consider:
(a) The age of the child, the nature of the offense or act, the relationship of the child to the parties in the case or to the defendant in a criminal action, the degree of emotional trauma that will result to the child as a consequence of the defendant’s presence, and any other fact that the court deems relevant;
(b) The age of the person who has an intellectual disability, the functional capacity of such person, the nature of the offenses or act, the relationship of the person to the parties in the case or to the defendant in a criminal action, the degree of emotional trauma that will result to the person as a consequence of the defendant’s presence, and any other fact that the court deems relevant; or
(c) The age of the sexual offense victim or witness when the sexual offense occurred, the relationship of the sexual offense victim or witness to the parties in the case or to the defendant in a criminal action, the degree of emotional trauma that will result to the sexual offense victim or witness as a consequence of the defendant’s presence, and any other fact that the court deems relevant.
(4) In addition to such other relief provided by law, the court may enter orders limiting the number of times that a child, a person who has an intellectual disability, or a sexual offense victim or witness may be interviewed, prohibiting depositions of the victim or witness, requiring the submission of questions before the examination of the victim or witness, setting the place and conditions for interviewing the victim or witness or for conducting any other proceeding, or permitting or prohibiting the attendance of any person at any proceeding. The court shall enter any order necessary to protect the rights of all parties, including the defendant in any criminal action.
(5) The court may set any other conditions it finds just and appropriate when taking the testimony of a victim or witness under the age of 18, a person who has an intellectual disability, or a sexual offense victim or witness, including the use of a therapy animal or facility dog, in any proceeding involving a sexual offense or child abuse, abandonment, or neglect.
(a) When deciding whether to permit a victim or witness under the age of 18, a person who has an intellectual disability, or a sexual offense victim or witness to testify with the assistance of a therapy animal or facility dog, the court shall consider the age of the child victim or witness, the age of the sexual offense victim or witness at the time the sexual offense occurred, the interests of the child victim or witness or sexual offense victim or witness, the rights of the parties to the litigation, and any other relevant factor that would facilitate the testimony by the victim or witness under the age of 18, person who has an intellectual disability, or sexual offense victim or witness.
(b) For purposes of this subsection the term:
1. “Facility dog” means a dog that has been trained, evaluated, and certified as a facility dog pursuant to industry standards and provides unobtrusive emotional support to children and adults in facility settings.
2. “Therapy animal” means an animal that has been trained, evaluated, and certified as a therapy animal pursuant to industry standards by an organization that certifies animals as appropriate to provide animal therapy.
History.s. 7, ch. 85-53; s. 3, ch. 93-131; s. 23, ch. 94-154; s. 8, ch. 2000-336; s. 3, ch. 2011-220; s. 6, ch. 2013-162; s. 1, ch. 2014-4; s. 64, ch. 2016-24; s. 9, ch. 2016-104; s. 3, ch. 2016-199; s. 1, ch. 2017-13.

Admin Order 18-40

The Chief Judge has entered Administrative Order 18-40 amended establishing a Therapy or Facility Dog Program for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit.

Approved Providers

Click the button below to view the current list of Approved Therapy Dog Providers for both Brevard and Seminole Courts. These providers meet the statuatory criteria.

Section 92.55(4), Florida Statutes enables the court to establish conditions it finds just and appropriate when taking the testimony of a child, including the use of a therapy animal or facility dog that has been evaluated and registered according to national standards, in any proceeding involving a sexual offense.

Victims of traumatic and violent crimes often suffer severe psychological distress and face a significant struggle during trials and court proceedings to testify and relive the events in question.

The Chief Judge of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit has determined that the use of therapy animals or facility dogs may be appropriate to assist a person with an intellectual disability or a victim or witness in proceedings involving a sexual offense or child abuse, abandonment or neglect.

Taking these issues into consideration, the Chief Judge has entered Administrative Order 18-40 Amended establishing a Therapy or Facility Dog Program for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit which provides specific guidelines for the presence and conduct of animal therapy teams in all the Courthouses of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit.

If the Office of the State Attorney, the Office of the Public Defender, the Department of Children and Families, the Guardian Ad Litem, or private retained counsel determine that the presence and use of a therapy or facility dog may aid in the testimony of a child/victim/witness at hearing, trial or deposition, that agency or individual shall contact an approved therapy animal of facility dog provider to determine availability of a therapy team and use of one of their therapy dogs. For a current list of Approved Therapy Dog Providers please Click Here.

Prior to the trial or hearing date, a timely motion requesting approval for the use of an animal therapy team must be filed with the court and a hearing scheduled with notice to all interested parties, including the 18th Circuit Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator and courthouse security staff. The moving party shall be solely responsible for informing all interested parties in any changes in date and/or time of the scheduled trial/hearing including notice to the ADA Coordinator and courthouse security.

Once the therapy or facility dog’s presence is approved by the presiding judge in a written order filed in the official court file and copied to the ADA Coordinator and courthouse security, the therapy dog team is permitted into the courthouse for all scheduled court events as well as case related events scheduled by another agency. All appearances must be scheduled and coordinated with the ADA Coordinator and courthouse security. Third parties are required to be present at all times with the therapy dog team while the therapy dog team is in the courthouse. A Guardian Ad Litem volunteer or state attorney victim advocate may serve as a third party.

Please review Administrative Order 18-40 Amended for further information and the requirements for utilizing the services of a therapy dog in sexual offense or child abuse, abandonment and neglect cases.

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