Expanded Access for Courthouse Facility Dogs and Certified Handlers– Beginning July 23, 2023

June 27, 2023

Change of Law: Hospital Action Required


Rural Chief Executive Officers, Chief Nursing Officers, Human Resources, Legal Counsel, and Government Affairs Staff

Staff Contact:


Mary Storace, Policy Analyst, Government Affairs
marys@wsha.org | 206-577-1838 

Zosia Stanley, JD, MHA, Vice President and Associate General Counsel, Government Affairs
zosias@wsha.org | 206-216-2511

Expanded Access for Courthouse Facility Dogs and Certified Handlers– Beginning July 23, 2023


The purpose of this bulletin is to inform hospitals of the new Washington State Substitute House Bill 1077 (SHB 1077), which states that courthouse facility dogs and certified handlers in the state are granted access to locations outside of the courthouse, including medical facilities.

SHB 1077, effective July 23, 2023, creates the following changes:

  1. Expressly authorizes courthouse facility dogs and certified handlers access to locations beyond courthouses. Locations may ask certified handler to show identification cards to establish that they are a certified handler and that a courthouse facility dog they are accompanying is authorized to access the location;
  2. Requires accredited assistance dog organizations to issue identification cards to certified courthouse dog handlers; and
  3. Amends the definition of a “certified handler” and a “courthouse facility dog.”

SHB 1077 expands the authorized locations in which a courthouse facility dog and certified handler can meet with witnesses or potential witnesses to a crime. Among other locations, medical facilities and places of public accommodation are included in the definition of an authorized location.


  1. Review this bulletin and SHB 1077 to understand the scope of the law. WSHA recommends hospitals engage legal, risk, compliance, and leadership as appropriate to evaluate compliance with the new law.
  1. Consider updates to hospital policies and procedures relating to services animals, therapy animals, and animal visitors to address authorized access for courthouse dogs. Prepare hospital staff for the possibility that an authorized courthouse facility dog and their handler may enter the facility. Assess training for relevant staff, including practices for staff to address access authorized by state or federal law (such as service animals and authorized courthouse dogs) and access for other animals (such as therapy animals and/or pets).

SHB 1077 expands the locations in which a courthouse facility dog and certified handler are authorized to access. Pursuant to the bill, courthouse facility dogs are authorized to access medical facilities, all modes of public transportation, as well as places of public accommodation including hospitals as defined by RCW 49.60.040.

To access an authorized location, a handler can be asked to show their identification card to establish that they are a certified handler, and that the accompanying courthouse facility dog has been authorized to access that location. An identification card shall clearly state that the individual is a “Certified Courthouse Facility Dog Handler”, the legal name of the handler, the name of and contact information for the dog organization that trained and certified the handler, and the locations in which the dog and handler are authorized to access.

The expanded list of authorized locations that a courthouse facility dog and certified handler can access, including places of public accommodation and medical facilities, now includes hospitals. Hospitals were included in the existing definition of a place of public accommodation, as written in RCW 49.60.040. However, a “medical facility” is not explicitly defined in statute or in SHB 1077.

Amended Definitions:

  • “Certified handler” definition is expanded to include victim advocates, forensic interviewers, detectives, prosecuting attorneys and guardian’s ad litem.
  • “Courthouse facility dog” is amended to provide that a dog shall demonstrate a continued proficiency in providing safe and reliable services through ongoing training according to the assistance dog organization’s training standards. Dogs shall be selected to provide companionship to witnesses and potential witnesses during stressful interviews, exams, meetings and other encounters associated with a law enforcement investigation. A dog shall travel as needed with their handler to and from authorized locations for training, community outreach, and other purposes associated with the courthouse facility dog programs operations.

Requirements to Allow Courthouse Dogs at New Locations
Under the new state law, a courthouse facility dog accompanied by a handler shall be authorized to access:

  • Any courthouse;
  • Any location where the dog and handler provide services, participate in administrative activities of the courthouse facility dog program, engage in community outreach, or participate in training activities;
  • Any location related to a law enforcement investigation where a courthouse dogs presence is requested;
  • Matters pending in the civil or criminal justice system;
  • Places of public accommodation, as defined by RCW 49.60.040;
  • Medical facilities;
  • All modes of public transportation;
  • Children’s advocacy centers;
  • Schools;
  • Day care facilities;
  • Law enforcement agencies;
  • Prosecutors’ offices;
  • Attorneys’ offices;
  • Specialty courts; and
  • Court-appointed special advocates and guardian ad litem program offices.

Hospitals May Ask Courthouse Dog Handlers to Provide Identifying Information
Accredited assistance dog organizations must issue identification cards to handlers to certify their work with a courthouse facility dog in the state.

The identification card shall clearly state:

  • That the individual is a “Certified Courthouse Facility Dog Handler”;
  • The legal name of the handler;
  • The name of and contact information for the dog organization that trained and certified the handler; and
  • A facility dog accompanied by a certified handler is legally authorized to access medical facilities, places of public accommodation defined by RCW 49.60.040, all courthouses public transportation, children’s advocacy centers, schools, day care facilities, law enforcement agencies, prosecutors’ offices, attorneys’ offices, medical facilities, specialty courts, court-appointed special advocates, and guardian ad litem program offices, all other locations identified in RCW 10.52.110.

WSHA’s 2023 New Law Implementation Guide
Please visit WSHA’s new law implementation guide online. The Government Affairs team is hard at work preparing resources and information on the high priority bills that passed in 2023 to help members implement the new laws, as well as links to resources such as this bulletin.

In 2019 Washington state became the first in the nation to authorize the use of courthouse facility dogs by witnesses in any judicial proceeding. Per RCW 10.52.110, courthouse facility dogs are authorized to work in over ten locations across Washington state, including multiple County Prosecuting Attorney’s offices. Courthouse dogs are an effective support intervention tool, particularly with children, as they are unfortunately susceptible to adverse effects, especially when participating in investigations, the prosecution of a crime, or other legal proceedings.

Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic many court hearings had to be conducted online. These circumstances made clear the importance of courthouse facility dogs being able to travel outside of the court to meet with witnesses and potential witnesses and build rapport.

Substitute House Bill 1077  – Courthouse Facility Dogs
RCW 10.52.110 – Courthouse Facility Dog Program
RCW 49.60.040 – Definition of a Place of Public Resort, Accommodation, Assemblage, or Assessment
WSHA Guidance on Service Animals in Washington State Hospitals (2018)


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