In October of 2019, the State’s Attorney of Illinois welcomed its newest member, Hatty the black lab. The 2-year-old lab was sworn into duty by placing her right paw over a law book at the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on October 29, 2019. Hatty will now share in the duty of providing support to Illinois children who are victims of sexual assault and will offer comfort to children struggling to discuss their assault.
Hatty’s therapy training specialized in helping children and developmentally disabled victims of sexual assault. She will provide assistance to victims while they testify in court, during depositions, and during interviews with officials. Hatty received her training on recognizing trauma and offering empathy from her experiences with inmates in Southwestern Illinois. She will use this training in her comfort of victims. Two trained office employees will be responsible for Hatty’s care, and she is expected to work a regular 9-5 schedule. It is expected that Hatty will handle between 100-200 cases per year and will likely appear in court with victims twice a month.
Hatty is the most recent dog to be selected as a therapy assistant for Illinois children, but she is not the first. In March of this year, the Madison County Courthouse welcomed Fitz, also a black lab, to its staff. Fitz’s duties at the courthouse are more generalized than Hatty’s. Fitz serves as a resource for both children and adults in need of support. Both animals had training to help them learn how to provide calm and empathetic support for individuals dealing with difficult situations. Fitz and Hatty were both trained by Duo Dogs in St. Louis, Missouri, and Madison County was the first facility to be selected by Duo Dogs to receive a courthouse companion. Funds for Fitz’s care and purchase were obtained by the fundraising efforts of the Sheriff’s Department and the Madison County Bar Association.
Both Hatty and Fitz were selected as a result of legislation passed by Illinois lawmakers in 2016. The law permits prosecutors to petition the court to allow a service dog to accompany children or developmentally disabled sexual assault victims while they testify in court. Senate Bill 1389 amended the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure and allowed the State’s Attorney’s Office to provide victims of sexual assault with a service animal to assist in the emotions associated with the litigation. The bill only permits the presence of a service animal in the context of a criminal prosecution and does not allow animals to be present in the case of a civil lawsuit. Since its enactment, Hatty and Fitz have been the first animals to fill these roles in Illinois.
Hatty and Fitz are examples of Illinois’ continued attempt to provide security to its residents. By supplying service animals, victims are assured that when coming forward with their allegations they will have a shoulder to lean on. Illinois expects to initiate programs similar to those in Madison and Cook County in other areas during the coming year.
If you have questions, contact Sherer Law Offices at (618) 692-6656 for more information.
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