dogcat 031021SPRINGFIELD – With a long history of successful animal protection legislation in the Illinois Senate, Assistant Majority Leader Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) has now presented a measure to add more safeguards in the courts for abused animals.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 153 on Tuesday, which would give trial courts discretion in prosecutions for cruelty to companion animals to appoint a volunteer lawyer or supervised law student to assist the court as a special advocate.

“Abuse cases can result in dismissed charges or reduced sentences for animal owners accused of cruelty, often due to prosecutors with good intentions but not enough resources for research and information to make a strong case,” Holmes said. “These advocates can assist the courts in working toward consistent reinforcement of Illinois’ mandate to properly protect companion animals.”

Holmes also pointed out the well-documented cycle of violence between those who abuse humans and those who abuse animals. Domestic violence perpetrators have a history of animal cruelty in their pasts, as do murderers.

The advocates can assist with legal research and technical assistance specific to the well-being of the subject animal, and help identify and select expert witnesses.

The lawyers and law students would work without pay or cost to the court. As special advocates, they receive courtroom and investigatory experience.

The organizations advocating for Senate Bill 153 include Best Friends Animal Society, Illinois Humane, the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Animal Welfare Institute.  

Senate Bill 153 now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.