jbt comfortdogSPRINGFIELD— A new law has been signed that will allow children with a severe or intellectual disability to have a “comfort canine” in the court room to help relieve the stress of testifying in sexual assault cases.

Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) co-sponsored the measure in the Illinois Senate.

“Having dogs in the court room is one way we can help victims cope with the stress of confronting their attacker and providing testimony,” Bertino-Tarrant said.

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

“Our Will County State’s Attorney, Jim Glasgow, has already initiated similar therapeutic use of dogs outside the courtroom,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “It has been very successful. This law broadens its effectiveness.”

When deciding whether or not to allow a child or person to testify with the assistance of a dog, the court must consider the age of the child or person, the rights of the parties to litigation and any other relevant factor that would facilitate testimony.

Senate Bill 1389 takes effect January 1, 2016.

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