Lost among the headlines generated this summer by animal rights groups was a law that Governor Pataki quietly signed this month to benefit guide dogs and the people who depend on them for mobility.
This legislation allows the owner of a guide dog or other service animal to recover financial damages when their dog is attacked by an aggressive dog. Current law treats an attack by one dog on another as "natural," even though aggressive dogs usually get that way only because of training by humans.
Until now, nothing in state law allowed the recovery of monetary damages from owners whose dogs attack working guide dogs. The owner simply paid a small fine for allowing the dog to run free, without any other consequences. Those small fines ignored the cost of breeding and training a guide dog, which exceeds $25,000. Unfortunately, a guide dog that has suffered an attack is often unable to work again.
The legislation that corrected this oversight in the law was a bipartisan effort spearheaded by Long Island Legislators, including Assemblymen Harvey Weisenberg, Tom DiNapoli and Bob Wertz and Senators James Lack and Dean Skelos. This law, which goes into effect Nov. 1, never got the publicity generated by some animal activists, but it will do a lot of real good for some wonderful, hard-working animals and the people they serve.
Wells B. Jones
Chief Executive Officer
Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind