Bill would allow therapy dogs in criminal hearings

PIERRE, S.D. (KCCR) – A bill introduced Thursday in the South Dakota Senate could make it easier for juvenile or developmentally disabled crime victims and witnesses to testify in court. Hughes County States Attorney Roxanne Hammond says she tried to get a certified therapy dog to testify alongside a child sex abuse victim in a 2019 case in Hughes County, but the judge said no.

Hammond says the bill is not intended to allow a family pet in court.

The bill also provides for protections for defendants, too.

The bill is being carried by Senator Deb Solholt, who Hammond worked with on the Jolene’s Law Task Force in 2014. S-B 136 has 16 co-sponsors including District 24 Representative Mary Duvall.  The bill has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Hammond says the bill will not be heard this week, but will likely come before the Committee in mid-February.