Governor Signs Service Dog Protection Bill at Ceremony, Evans Says
|Rep. John Evans joined Gov. Tom Corbett today as the governor signed House Bill 165 during a ceremony at Susquehanna Service Dogs training center in Harrisburg. They are joined by Erie resident Passle Helminski, who has been fighting for the new law for nearly 15 years. She has had numerous incidents of her service animals being attacked by other dogs.
HARRISBURG – Joined by individuals who use service animals to improve their quality of life and nearly a dozen service dogs, Gov. Tom Corbett today ceremonially signed legislation that seeks to protect service animals from vicious attacks by other animals, said Rep. John Evans (R-Erie/Crawford), author of the new law.
The signing was held this morning at Susquehanna Service Dogs in Harrisburg.
“Service animals are a lifeline to those individuals who use them to help with their daily activities, and an attack on one of these animals is not only devastating to the dog but to its owner,” Evans said, who has worked on the legislation for 12 years. “These animals undergo rigorous training in order to provide their owners with the best possible service, and that takes considerable time and investment.”
Act 162 of 2012, formerly House Bill 165, applies both criminal and civil penalties to owners of animals that recklessly and viciously kill or maim a service animal. The penalties will be applied to individuals who own or co-own a dog that kills, maims or disfigures the guide dog of an individual who is blind, a hearing dog of an individual who is deaf or audibly impaired, or a service dog of an individual who is physically limited.
Specifically, the owner will be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor and be required to pay any veterinary bills, the costs of training and replacing a deceased service animal and a fine up to $15,000. The owner of the attacking animal may also need to reimburse the victim for loss of income due to an inability to work because of the loss of the guide dog.
The criminal penalty will apply if the attack was unprovoked and if the animal’s owner knew of their dog’s propensity to attack other domestic animals or people and did not properly restrain the attacking animal.
“Service animals are not only helping those with physical impairments like blindness and hearing loss, but are doing a world of good for children and adults with intellectual disabilities,” Evans continued. “These animals are not trained to fight back, and that’s why they may suffer even greater injuries in an attack with another animal, especially one with a history of aggression and is allowed to roam freely. That’s why we must do everything we can – and enact sensible and reasonable laws – to help these animals and the people they serve.”
Evans emphasized that the intent with this legislation is not to prosecute or penalize responsible pet owners, but to give state law some teeth when it comes to animal owners who show complete disregard for the actions of their pet.
“I’d like to thank Governor Corbett for holding this ceremonial signing and to all of the service animal advocates who championed this new law,” Evans continued. “I’d also like to personally thank Erie resident Passell Helminski whose own experience with her service animals being attacked was the motivation behind this proposal along with Jennifer Warsing of Huntingdon and Laurel Herman of Pittsburgh for their advocacy as well. This legislation is designed so that Passell, Warsing and other residents can have a better peace of mind when it comes to the protection of their service animals.”
More than 35 other states have similar laws on the books.
The event took place during International Assistance Dog Week to recognize all the devoted, hardworking assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability-related limitations.
State Representative John Evans
5th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton