Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx introduced the office’s first support dog to assist children and mentally disabled victims of sexual assault and violence during a special swearing-in ceremony today at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building.
Hatty, a two-year-old Labrador Retriever, is a specially trained support dog who will serve as a therapeutic resource to specifically assist young children or mentally disabled victims of sexual trauma. Hatty’s primary role is to provide direct support to these individuals when testifying in court or during interviews with prosecutors and other officials.
“Navigating the criminal justice system can be confusing and scary, especially for young people and other victims of sexual assault,” said State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. “Victims are the center of our work, and I know personally that retelling a painful story of abuse can cause trauma all over again. We’re excited to welcome Hatty to our team where she will provide comfort and peace to victims during one of the most difficult times in their lives.”
In 2016, Illinois passed legislation which allows state prosecutors to petition the court to have a facility dog present when children or mentally disabled persons are testifying in court on sexual assault cases.
In partnership with Duo Dogs, a St. Louis-based non-profit organization, the State’s Attorney’s Office brought Hatty to Cook County at no cost to taxpayers. The State’s Attorney’s Office staff held a fundraiser that will support food, equipment, and comfort materials. Hatty, short for “hat trick,” came from a hockey-themed litter which also included Silky, Celly, Deke, Gino, Dangle, Puck, and Casey.
After a 45-day on the job training period, Hatty will spend her work day attending meetings with victims and Assistant State’s Attorneys as they conduct interviews and prepare for court appearances.
Hatty’s housing and care will be provided by two office employees, who have received specialized training to handle the responsibilities of the service animal both at work and at home.
Prosecutors estimate that Hatty will appear in court with victims about twice a month and handle between 150 - 200 cases per year.
Adding a facility dog is one of several victim-centered, trauma-informed approaches the State’s Attorney’s Office has taken recently. The Office has also expanded vertical prosecution, where a victim works with the same attorney from start to finish on their case, developed soft interview reviews for greater comfort, and increased diversity.