Bill to allow therapy dogs in court on its way to becoming law

PIERRE, S.D. (KCCR) – A bill that would allow for certified therapy dogs to accompany vulnerable youth or developmentally disabled witnesses in South Dakota circuit courts is rapidly on its way to becoming law. Senate Bill 136 cleared the House Judiciary Committee on a unanimous 12 to 0 vote Wednesday.

Hughes County States Attorney Roxanne Hammond came up with the idea after she was denied use of a therapy dog in a 2019 child rape case. She believes the dog would have made a difference for the victim.

Pierre attorney Aaron Scheibe, representing the South Dakota State’s Attorney’s Association says the bill protects witnesses and defendants while giving judges the correct tools and guidance.

There was no opponent testimony on the bill. Judiciary Committee member Representative Dayle Hammock of Spearfish moved do-pass on the bill.

S-B 136 was certified for placement on the Consent Calendar in the full House. That means that unless the bill is removed from the Calendar for discussion, it will clear the House without debate and move on to consideration for being signed into law by Governor Kristi Noem. Other than a few excused votes, SB-136 did not receive any nay votes while moving through the Legislature.