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Pennsylvania High Court Allows Witness Comfort Dogs in Courtrooms

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has decided in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Purnell that judges have the discretion to permit a witness to testify with the assistance of a comfort dog. The opinion held that “In exercising that discretion, courts should balance the degree to which the accommodation will assist the witness in testifying in a truthful manner against any possible prejudice to the defendant’s right to a fair trial and employ means to mitigate any such prejudice.” The court adopted a balancing test for judges to ask “will it help?” not “is it necessary?” In the instant case, the court specifically ruled that the presence of a comfort dog with a testifying child who allegedly had witnessed the defendant commit murder was not inherently prejudicial and was not grounds for the conviction to be overturned.

California Bill Would Require Notice About Service Animal Fraud to be Given in Large, Bold Font

California Assembly Bill 2785 would increase the required font size of the notice that providers of emotional support dogs are mandated to give relating to the penalties associated with wrongfully passing the dog off as a service animal. The bill would change the required font from 12-point bold type to 16-point bold type. The bill has not yet been assigned to a committee.

Connecticut Bill Would Update Statutes Concerning Service Animals

Connecticut House Bill 5232 would update the state’s provisions for service animals to mirror federal regulations more closely. The bill has been referred to the Joint Committee on Human Services.

Iowa Bill Would Set Requirements for Individuals Seeking Service Animal Housing Accommodations

Iowa House File 2486 would establish required criteria to demonstrate qualification for an assistance animal for purposes of seeking housing accommodations. The bill has not yet been referred to a committee.

Michigan Law Sets New Public Accommodation Requirements for Service Animals

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Michigan House Bill 4256, which updates the state’s requirement of public accommodations for individuals with service animals, allowing the training of service animals in real-world settings. The bill also includes specific provisions relating to the use of miniature horses as service animals.

New Jersey Bill Would Provide Service Dogs to COVID-19 Frontline Workers Suffering from PTSD

New Jersey Senate Bill 1740 would require the Department of Human Services to provide psychiatric service dogs to first responders, health care workers, and other frontline workers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders due to the COVID-19 pandemic at no cost to the individual. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens.