New Jersey Toughens Its Law Against Harming Service Animals
You will not hear many good things being said about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie these days. Between getting caught closing down bridges, holding up disaster relief funds, and his generally abrasive nature, he doesn't make for a very sympathetic figure. But I'm a forgiving sort (no, not really, but it sounds good), so when he does something right, I'm willing to throw the man a bone. So here we go: This week, Christie signed legislation known as Dusty's Law, which gives extra legal protections to guide dogs.
The law is named after a 9-month-old German Shepherd who was being trained as a guide dog in 2010 when he was attacked by another dog. Dusty wasn't killed in the attack, but he required 100 stitches, lost four teeth, and was so emotionally traumatized that he couldn't be kept in the training program. Dusty's trainer, Roger Woodhour, recently told a New Jersey news site that almost half of all guide dogs are attacked by other animals.
Before the new law, violence against a guide dog wouldn't be treated as a criminal offense; the police were required to refer the case to the animal control agencies. With the passage of Dusty's Law, someone who assaults or kills a guide animal, or allows an animal in their custody to do so, is guilty of a fourth-degree crime. That means that anyone found guilty is subject to a maximum of 18 months behind bars, a $10,000 fine, or both. It also requires the person convicted to pay compensation to the owner of the dog that's been injured or killed. That includes not only veterinary bills, but the cost of a new guide dog if necessary. Considering that a guide dog's training can cost almost $60,000, the compensation can easily exceed the amount of the fine.
Jim Kutsch, the president and CEO of training school The Seeing Eye, says that "Seeing eye dogs are especially vulnerable to injury during an attack because they've been bred and trained to be non-aggressive."
Also, thanks to their training, they're extremely hesitant to leave their owners' sides, even to escape a threat to themselves.
Ultimately, there is a lot of credit to go around for this law getting passed. A lot of organizations have put a lot of work into getting it through, and they have petitioned online and in the real world to get it into Christie's office. Congratulations to all of them. Service animals are an invaluable resource, and we're glad to see them protected by law.
Via Cliff View Pilot
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