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Mainor, Benson & Albano Measures to Impose Penalties for Crimes against Guide Dogs, "Dusty’s Law"; to Revise Victim’s Bills of Rights Advance

(TRENTON) – The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee on Thursday released two measures sponsored by Assembly Democrats Charles Mainor, Daniel R. Benson and Nelson Albano that would bolster protections of service animals and provide greater support to the victims of a crime.

The first bill (A-4105) establishes criminal penalties for recklessly killing, injuring; or interfering with a guide dog. The bill is known as “Dusty’s Law.” Dusty, a dog being trained by the Seeing Eye Organization, was attacked by a pit bull while working with his trainer in Woodcliff Lake in 2010. Due to his injuries, he can no longer function as a guide dog.

“Unfortunately, attacks on guide dogs very similar to the one on Dusty are relatively common and statutes pertaining to these crimes are long overdue,” said Mainor (D-Hudson). “Guide dogs provide many residents with disabilities the opportunity to live an independent life. Any crime against these companions is cowardly, malicious and their victimization hurts the owner equally as much.”

“Guide dogs dutifully serve and protect their owner,” said Benson (D- Mercer and Middlesex). “They are life companions that help to instill confidence and dignity in the owner by helping them to complete daily tasks. Criminalizing reckless acts against service dogs would hold the perpetrator accountable for their action and the care of the animal if injuries are sustained.”

Specifically, the bill would make it a crime of the fourth degree for a person to recklessly kill a guide dog, or to recklessly permit a dog that he or she owns or has immediate control over to kill a guide dog. A person who recklessly injures a guide dog, or recklessly permits a dog that he or she owns or has immediate control over to injure a guide dog would be a disorderly person under the bill. Finally, a person who recklessly interferes with the use of a guide dog, by obstructing, intimidating or otherwise jeopardizing the safety of the guide dog or its handler would be guilty if a petty disorderly persons offense.
The second bill (A-4276) revise the New Jersey Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights to provide the victim with the right to the use of a service animal if one is deemed necessary, as result of a crime.

“Survivors of a crime may need support in overcoming trauma or with a temporary disability suffered as a result of the experience,” said Albano (D-Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland). “Service animals would provide invaluable support to a victim working to regain a sense of normalcy in their lives. Whether it is an impermanent loss of vision, or fear, this legislation would allow victims to enlist a guide dog to help them while they get better.”

The bill defines a “guide dog” as a dog, or dog in training, which (1) has been or is being raised or trained by a volunteer puppy raiser or staff member of an organization generally recognized as being involved in the rehabilitation of the blind or deaf and reputable and competent to provide dogs with specialized training; or (2) is fitted with a special harness so as to be suitable as an aid to the mobility of a blind person.

In the bill, a service animal is defined by the Federal American with Disabilities Act 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.