CAN SMART ANIMALS GIVE EVIDENCE IN COURT?


                              




Imagine that a woman who lives alone was assaulted. She has been called upon to give her oral testimony. However, she seeks to also bring in her most cherished companion, "kwin" a parrot to corroborate her testimony.

How do Parrots talk?
I would want to note that animals are generally smart. At least, they have survival instincts. However, there are smart animals who are special and one of a kind. These animals like dogs, cats, parrots etc falls within the category of pets. Parrots are one of the few animals that are noted to be vocal learners. Irene Pepperberg, a research associate and lecturer at Havard noted that parrots use their vocal prowess to share important information and fit in with the flock. She further noted that when you bring a parrot into a human household, it will try to integrate itself into the situation as though the people were it's flock members. Parrots can learn to speak and because they are social creatures, they learn the language of their owner.

Extent Animals could go in the Legal Profession today.
In law, there are human persons and artificial persons like a company. I do not think that animals would qualify as a person even though we have animal rights and animal activism. However,  trial courts in the United States have the discretionary authority to allow use of dog to provide comfort and support. The cases of California v. Spence and Washington v. Dye are quite illustrative.  In Washington v. Dye(SC. No.87929-0), the main issue before this case was whether court may allow a witness to be accompanied by a comfort animal in this case a dog, when testifying during trial. The court affirmed the decision of the trial court. It stated as follows "the trial court within it's board discretion when it determined that Ellie, the facility dog provided by the prosecutor's office to the victim, Douglas Lare, was needed in light of Lare's severe developmental disabilities in order for Late to testify adequately". Douglas Lare in this case suffered from developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy, mild mental retardation. During the testimony he was asked questions like;
"Q: ...who is this your friend there with you?
A: This is Ellie. (Ellie is a dog)
Q: And why is Ellie there with you?
A: Ellie is to help me and make it easier to help me and to make it easier for me. And I have threats here."

This suggests that in the United States, the well being of victims of sexual abuse and child witnesses are taken into consideration. This is to the extent that they would allow the presence of animals which act as "comforters" to these witnesses to be present during the criminal proceedings provided that they do not interefere with the proceedings of the court. Furthermore, animals cannot testify in court cases in the United States.

In South Africa, animals are not allowed into the courtrooms neither are they allowed to testify. However, organizations like Top dogs and Teddy Bear Foundation help children who have suffered sexual abuse through the use of therapy dogs to help them prepare to testify in court. The dogs are used to simulate court processes to help victims understand how the court process works.

In Nigeria, our justice system is yet to attain the level where psychology will be regarded as an essential tool in ensuring adequate dispensation of justice. Our Laws especially the the Evidence Act, do not envisage that an animal could be brought to court to give evidence. I imagine a hillarious response to such initiative. A witness must be competent before his/her testimony will be considered relevant and admissible. While it is explainable that a victim currently undergoing a rehabilitation or therapy would need a facility dog in other to be able to give evidence in court; it is quite an Herculean task to come to terms with the fact that a parrot will be brought to corroborate a woman's testimony in court. This is something we should look out for as the legal profession continues to emerge and develop.




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2 comments:

  1. I could imagine a hilarious response too in Nigerian courts but that could change in a very long time.

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