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Service animals in New Jersey now protected, ‘Dusty’s Law’ signed

Photo Credit: above
Photo Credit: Pixie

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The state measure born in Woodcliff Lake known as “Dusty’s Law” is, in fact, a law now after being signed by Gov. Christie today. It establishes criminal penalties for killing, maiming or interfering with a service dog.

Before today, police couldn’t investigate such instances as criminal acts but, instead, must refer them to animal control agencies who sometimes cannot respond immediately on nights or weekends. The law was crucial, proponents said, because of the imminent danger to a blind person whose dog is incapacitated or killed.

Dusty’s Law makes it a criminal matter requiring police response. It governs any animal that attacks, injures or interferes with any kind of service dog, including during training.

Service dog Pixie at an earlier NJ State Senate hearing in Trenton (CLIFFVIEW PILOT photo)

That includes attacks on any dog, horse or other animal owned or used by a law enforcement agency, including search-and-rescue dogs.

It’s named for Dusty ( photos, above ), a German Shepherd puppy being trained as a guide dog who was mauled by a pit bull in Woodcliff Lake, requiring nearly 100 stitches, in July 2010.

Dusty, who was nine months old at the time, lost four teeth and suffered emotional trauma that kept him from continuing his work with The Seeing Eye program.

“Seeing eye dogs are especially vulnerable to injury during an attack because they’ve been bred and trained to be non-aggressive,” Jim Kutsch, president and CEO of The Seeing Eye, the world’s oldest guide-dog school.

They also “are unlikely to leave their masters’ sides, even to save themselves,” he said.

Dusty’s trainer, Roger Woodhour of Woodcliff Lake, who has volunteered with The Seeing Eye for more than 20 years, noted that nearly half of all guide dogs are attacked at some time by other animals, ordinarily within a half-hour walk from home.

The Seeing Eye published a survey that found that 44% of 744 guide dog users had experienced at least one attack by another animal. More than 80% said they’d had some kind of interference by another animal.

Allowing an animal to kill a guide dog would be punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up $10,000, or both, under the law.

Allowing an animal to injure or interfere with a guide dog would be a disorderly persons offense, with the potential for a six-month prison sentence.

The measure also requires restitution if a guide dog is killed or injured — including the dog’s value, the nearly $60,000 it costs to train a replacement dog, veterinary bills, and lost income.

  • GUEST COLUMN (Morristown Green) : State laws protecting the rights of guide dogs and handlers vary, but few provide real protection, compensation, and lawful response. Dusty’s Law would offer round-the-clock police protection for New Jersey’s guide dog teams who need immediate assistance. READ MORE ….

In Bergen County, call 201-573-8900 to report any form of suspected animal cruelty or neglect.

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