Measure would allow therapy dogs to assist child victims in courtroom

SPRINGFIELD — A child’s nightmare of sexual abuse can return when it plays out in a courtroom. A bill being considered in Springfield would allow therapy dogs to assist.
The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign), would allow a judge to use “a series of factors” to determine whether to allow a companion animal “where it requires a witness or a victim who is a child who is alleged to be the victim of a sexual assault or a sexual crime.”
Other witnesses described how a little girl whispered her story into a dog’s ear before testifying formally; and how the dog can prolong the interview process and, says Bill Dahlkamp of Therapy Dogs Inc., “basically keeps the secrets” of the child.
A therapy dog, Mitchell, appeared in committee but did not testify.
S.B. 1389 has passed the Senate Criminal Law Committee.