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Illinois law proposes legal representation for dogs, cats in abuse cases

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Illinois lawmakers are considering proposed legislation that could give dogs and cats more legal protection.

State Rep. Allen Skillicorn, has proposed a bill that would allow attorneys, paralegals, and experts on animal abuse to serve as advocates for dogs and cats in abuse cases, if the court believes it is necessary.

Skillicorn says this could help provide harsher penalties for some abusers of animals, that effectively get off with little to no punishment.

Quincy Human Society Director Sally Westerhoff says Illinois has some of the toughest animal cruelty laws, but more could be done to enforce them.

"I think having a legal advocate to speak for those animals might help with outcomes, that provide more impact in sentencing in our judicial system rather than just having the offenders side presented in court," Westerhoff said.

People against the bill say the legal representation could be put to better use for human cases.

The Adams County State's Attorney's Office does not think that will be an issue.

"There's more than enough justice to go around, it's not a zero-some game, where if we are doing something that's helpful for animals, we're not also doing something that is helpful for people," Assistant State's Attorney Josh Jones said.

"We can do both and I think we should do both," Jones added.

The bill has bipartisan support.

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