BennettComfortCanineSPRINGFIELD- It is a traumatic experience for a seven- year-old girl to have to explain experiences of sexual abuse to a courtroom full of strangers and her attacker. To relieve some of this stress and anxiety, Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) advanced Senate Bill 1389 to permit courts to allow comfort canines in courtrooms.

“During my time as a prosecutor, we had to deal with the difficult task of putting children on the stand to testify and go through the emotional struggle of explaining a traumatic experience,” said Bennett. “Our goal is to alleviate some of their anxiety and stress by providing some comfort through the use of therapy dogs.”     

SB 1389 would allow courts to authorize the use of “comfort canines” when children or others with a severe developmental or intellectual disability have to testify in court on sexual assault cases.  

Authorized dogs would be required to go through training and be evaluated and registered as a member of Assistance Dogs International.

“We need to do whatever we can to provide additional support to children during these distressing experiences,” said Bennett. “The use of dogs in the courtroom can help bring a major change in how we can meet the emotional needs of those involved in the criminal justice system.”

This measure passed out of the Senate’s Committee on Criminal Justice and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

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