by Natalia Radcliffe
Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) recently introduced a new bill that would protect all guide, signal or service dogs, whether they are “on duty” or not.
Currently, guide dogs that are “on duty” are protected by the state. For example, if a person allows his or her dog to injure or kill a guide, signal or service dog, then he or she is charged with a misdemeanor.
However, those dogs which are “off duty” do not receive any protection.
According to Hallie Balch, spokesperson from Lackey’s office, an “on duty” guide, service or signal dog is a dog that has its jacket and/or leash on. An “off duty” dog is a dog that is chilling at home, napping, relieving themselves, etc.
The bill, AB 169, aims to protect guide, service or signal dogs while working and off-duty. This protection, in turn, will also benefit those people who rely on these dogs as part of their livelihood.
The purpose of the bill is to hold other dog owners accountable. Those who allow their dogs to injure or kill a guide, signal or service dog will be required to monetarily compensate the dog and its owner for any financial consequences that result from the attack.
The specifics of how much and what owners would pay will be determined by the local courts. According to Balch, owners could pay up to $20,000 in compensation.
“Guide, signal and service dogs need to be protected if they are to perform their duties appropriately,” said Assemblyman Lackey. “These are the animals whose life’s work revolves around protecting us. The least we can do for them is ensure that both they and their owners are properly cared for in a time of need.”