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Pavley Bill Stiffens Penalties for Attacks on Guide and Service Dogs

(August 30, 2004)

As hard as it is to imagine, working service dogs are all too often the victims of interference and attacks by other dogs that are allowed to run loose or whose owners will not control them. Service dogs have changed the lives and personal freedom of countless people who are fortunate enough to be partnered with these extraordinary animals. Incidents of attacks on the dogs and/or their owners can be devastating, and some attacks have resulted in the early retirement or death of the dogs.

A bill to increase penalties for attacks on guide and service dogs was chaptered into law today, with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature. AB 1801 authored by Assemblymember Fran Pavley and sponsored by the California Council for the Blind will go into effect January 1, 2005. "My family has raised guide dog puppies," said Assemblymember Fran Pavley. "Several of them have come back into our lives after being retired. Hearing the horror stories about unprovoked and terrifying attacks on a service dog or its blind or disabled owner is very personal. I felt strongly that the penalties for these totally avoidable incidents had to be strengthened. The stories just kept coming in to my office."

An Orange County resident with limited vision saw only a blur coming at him when a runner and large dog ran past him. The runner's dog attacked and the runner kept going, leaving behind the bleeding guide dog with a section of its ear missing. Another person who was totally blind and dependent on guide dogs for 30 years could only feel and hear the savage attack going on and was powerless to do anything to stop it. Two Akitas nearly killed a Medical Companion dog in Simi Valley, forcing the dog into retirement because of its injuries.

"The passage of this legislation will greatly improve the ability of blind and visually impaired, and other individuals using guide, signal and other service animals to travel safely on our public rights-of-way," said Dan Kysor, Director of Governmental Affairs with the California Council of the Blind.

AB 1801 does the following:

  • Expands coverage of the bill from just guide dogs to include signal dogs, service dogs, and mobility aids such as wheelchairs and walkers.
  • Increases the criminal penalties for a person who permits any dog, which is owned by him or her, to cause injury to or the death of any guide, signal, or service dog. The crime can now be considered a misdemeanor if the person acted with reckless disregard in the exercise of control over his or her dog.
  • Increases the penalties for any person who intentionally causes injury to or the death of any guide, signal, or service dog while the dog is acting in the discharge of its duties to one year in the county jail, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.
  • Allows restitution of monetary damages to be ordered by a court, including veterinary bills, replacement costs or other costs deemed appropriate, if the dog is disabled or killed.

"There needed to be serious consequences when the owners of dogs behave recklessly or callously, and change lives in such a terrifying and devastating way. I was proud to author this bill," concluded Pavley.