Wheeler Sponsors Legislation to Ensure Children Can Keep Their Furred Friend Service Dogs by Their Side

Rep. Wheeler with Lake County Advocate Animal Mitchell 
and Assistant State’s Attorney Jason Grindell
State Representative Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) is sponsoring Senate Bill 1389, which passed the Illinois Senate with full support and is now being heard in the Illinois House. Following a traumatic experience, animals, often dogs, are used in therapeutic ways to help children and the developmentally disabled overcome the experience. This legislation allows these dogs to continue to be used to help foster a safe and healthy environment during court proceedings.

“When a child is abused or suffers a traumatic experience, it is often the comfort of an animal that helps them get over it,” said Wheeler. “Animals pass no judgement; they just want to be your friend. This caring nature is what makes them so valuable for a child who has suffered.”

SB1389 permits courts handling criminal cases that involve the abuse or exploitation of a child, or someone who is developmentally disabled, to allow the victim to have their service or therapeutic dog at their side during proceedings. Research by the Humane Society has shown that children who have suffered trauma are more likely to come out of their “shell” through the comfort provided by a service animal. When testifying in a criminal case, children are often so intimidated by facing their abuser they aren't able to complete testimony before the court. The mere presence of the animal they have developed a comforting bond with can be essential to helping them overcome the intimidating nature of the experience.

“Facing your abuser is an unimaginable experience,” said Wheeler. “While it’s difficult for an adult, the difficulty is so much more for a child. Having a dog like Mitchell at their side can make the difference; so ensuring these dogs can be in the courtroom to help comfort a child in need goes a long way.”