By Jack Fink

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A bill that passed in the U.S. Senate last month would allow certified dogs inside federal courtrooms to help witnesses and crime victims testify.

The Courthouse Dogs Act allows anyone involved in a federal criminal case to request dogs that are trained and have graduated from an accredited program such as Canine Companions for Independence at Baylor Scott and White Health’s Kinkeade Campus in Irving.

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The dogs trained there are Labrador Retriever  and Golden Retrievers or a mix of the two.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced the legislation.

“This legislation ensures you have well trained handlers and a program, which is designed to produce dogs capable of rendering this service. You can imagine if one of the dogs happens to run amok in a courthouse or create more problems than they solve, that that could undermine the whole concept or whole approach. It’s really important to not only have well-trained dogs, but the people conducting that training,” said Senator Cornyn.

During a panel discussion Friday morning, Cornyn, U.S. District Court Judge Ed Kinkeade, and those at Canine Companions for Independence advocated for the bill and said they hope the U.S. House will pass it, so President Donald Trump can sign it into law.

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Panelists said the dogs have already made a big difference for crime victims and witnesses who testify in the local courts and would also do so in the federal courts.

Experts said the dogs put people at ease and are trained to sit quietly in the courtroom while comforting someone who is testifying.

“It really is such important work that the dogs can do, not just in a courthouse, but before they even get there in those forensic interviews. They’re working with the victims and the clients who need the assistance of these dogs,” said Executive Director of the southern region for Canine Companions for Independence, Michelle Davis.

Davis said its organization does not charge a fee for witnesses who request one of their dogs in court. She said for people who are interested, they can apply online.

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