(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gilbert “Whip” Wilson and Benjie Wimberly to compensate crime victims for service animal expenses that resulted from the crime committed against them was recently approved by the full Assembly.
“Service animals are a great resource for individuals with disabilities, but they are not cheap. This expense is not limited to the initial purchase, but long-term maintenance care of the animal” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “A service animal can be a lifetime investment. Individuals who require the assistance of a service animal as a result of a crime should not be stuck paying the bill.”
“Depending on their training, service dogs can cost up to $50,000. And that’s just the upfront cost,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “An individual who was the victim of a crime and must rely on a service dog to assist with physical challenges should not have to bare that expense alone.”
The bill (A-1819) specifically provides that crime victims may be awarded compensation for those expenses related to procuring or providing treatment to a service animal when a service animal is required by the victim due to injuries sustained by the victim as a result of the crime.
Under the bill, a “service animal,” as defined by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.
The bill was approved 74-0 in the Assembly. It was released by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee on March 16.