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State’s attorney brings on support dog

By Jordyn Reiland jreiland@lawbulletinmedia.com

Hatty raises her paw to take the “oath” from State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx to become the office’s first facility dog at a ceremony Tuesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. Holding Hatty’s leash is her primary handler, sexual assault victim witness specialist Stephanie Coelho. — Jordyn Reiland

Hatty raises her paw to take the “oath” from State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx to become the office’s first facility dog at a ceremony Tuesday at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. Holding Hatty’s leash is her primary handler, sexual assault victim witness specialist Stephanie Coelho. — Jordyn Reiland

Posted October 30, 2019 11:00 AM

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office on Tuesday welcomed its newest four-legged employee: a 2-year-old black Labrador retriever named Hatty.

As the office’s first support dog, Hatty will serve as a therapeutic resource to assist young children or those with a mental disability who have experienced sexual trauma.

At a swearing-in ceremony at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Hatty briefly placed her right paw on a book while Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx administered her oath.

Foxx also placed a state’s attorney’s office pin on Hatty’s vest.

Hatty’s tasks will include supporting individuals who are testifying in court or during interviews with prosecutors or other court officials.

“Testifying is traumatic. Children and disabled persons who come into our courtroom don’t have the full range of tools to address traumatic responses,” Foxx said. “These dogs are trained to help comfort and to relax people, and they are an invaluable resource to children who are caught up in courtroom situations.”

A judge has to grant an order to allow a facility dog to be in the courtroom, and the dog will be expected to remain out of sight and silent for the entirety of the proceeding.

The state’s attorney’s office partnered with Duo Dogs, a St. Louis-based nonprofit, to provide Hatty at no cost to taxpayers. Hatty’s name comes from the hockey term “hat trick.”

“Many of us who do this work like to think we’re born for this purpose. The fact is Hatty was born for this purpose,” said Lori Smith, director of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office Victim Witness Unit.

Hatty’s training included basic obedience school, a program with the Southwest Illinois Correctional Center that provides male inmates an opportunity to train the dogs, and “graduate school” with Duo Dogs’ assistance, Smith said.

In July 2015, then-Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation that allows dogs to accompany children and developmentally disabled adults into the courtroom witness stand in certain circumstances.

Since the law took effect on Jan. 1, 2016, courthouses in Winnebago, Lake, Madison and McHenry Counties have made dogs available to victims.

The office estimates Hatty will work eight hours each day, appear in court about twice a month and could handle between 150 and 200 cases each year.

Hatty will live with two handlers who work in the state’s attorney’s office for up to seven years. At the end of that commitment, either handler can adopt the dog for $1, Foxx said.

Foxx said the program aligns with her push for victim-centered, trauma-informed approaches within the office.

Last updated: November 04, 2019

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