TN judge rejects courtroom monkey motion

A Putnam County judge has rejected a woman’s request to have her pet monkey — named Carlose and deemed an “emotional support animal” — on hand in the courtroom for her pending trial on drug charges, reports the Cookeville Herald-Citizen.

Gordon Byars, attorney for Barbara Sue Myers of Celina, had filed a motion asking that Carlose be permitted to attend the court proceedings with his owner. Criminal Court Judge Gary McKenzie denied the motion.

“In all my time studying law in school and in my 17 years of practice, I never thought I would have to decide whether a monkey can come in a courtroom,” he said.

Byars argued in the motion that the presence of the monkey — a black-handed species named Carlose — would be critical for Myers during trial.

“Emotional support animals are … necessary for the normal, day-to-day functioning of their emotionally or psychologically impaired handler, facilitating a normalizing effect by their presence,” Byars said.

He cited several federal laws protecting and allowing the use of emotional support animals. They can be present in aircraft cabins, for example, and landlords must accommodate them even when leases prohibit it, he said.

Byars showed proof that Carlose is a certified emotional support animal by the National Service Animal Registry. His motion also references a statement by Myers’ doctor claiming that Carlose’s presence helps her manage the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

“He is well trained, friendly and accompanies the defendant everywhere she goes,” Byars said.

Judge McKenzie denied the motion because Carlose is an emotional support animal and not a service dog.

“The American Disability Act specifically excludes all other animals except dogs,” he said.

The judge is particularly familiar with that law because, when he was an assistant prosecutor, he was involved in writing directions allowing a service dog into a DeKalb County courtroom for a child rape trial. That was a precedent-setting case in the state. It involved the 13th Judicial District’s Child Advocacy Center’s service dog, Murch, who is trained to be in court.