The full Assembly unanimously granted final legislative approval to a bipartisan bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Angela McKnight and Vince Mazzeo that guarantees full and equal access to all housing for disabled individuals who retain their retired service or guide dog as a pet, even if they obtain a new service or guide dog.
“Anyone who has ever had a pet knows that they become much more than that over their lifetime. They become family. This is all the more true when it’s a pet that someone depends on for vital support,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This is a compassionate and practical change to help ease the lives of those dependent on service dogs.”
Under the bill (A-4096), the state’s “Law Against Discrimination” would guarantee full and equal access to all housing to disabled persons who retain their retired service or guide dog as a pet, and who also obtain a new service or guide dog to replace the retired dog.
“Service and guide dogs often retire eventually due to age or infirmity,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “That does not mean they’re not still in need of care and companionship. The natural fit is for them to remain with the companion who has grown attached to them over the years.”
“When a service dog retires, this change in status can be an obstacle for a disabled resident who wants to keep their dog as a pet, yet still needs to obtain a new service dog, if their housing situation prohibits or limits animals,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “We need to rectify that.”
Additionally, the bill would also prohibit the payment of extra compensation for the retired pet.
The bill previously passed the Senate unanimously, as well, and now heads to the Governor’s desk. It would take effect immediately upon enactment.