The rise in dogs attacking guide and service dog teams appears to be escalating, or at least it seems that way to those who are keeping watch. Just this week alone, an Australian man’s guide dog was attacked and subsequently died during the assault, and a Scottish man’s 2 year-old black Labrador guide dog was retired prematurely due to the trauma from continued harassment by unsupervised dogs. The push for officials to pass laws penalizing offending dog owners is gaining interest in the global community, and most notably, right here in the United States, thanks to a long-time guide dog handler and a Pennsylvania lawmaker.
The latest push to protect guide and service dogs comes from a woman named Passel Helminski, who lives in Pennsylvania, and who has been lobbying for stricter laws for over 15 years. Thanks to her and Pennsylvania State Representative John Evans, House Bill 165 has passed and is now in the state law books. The law makes it a third degree misdemeanor for offending owners of a dog who attacks a service dog. A service dog is defined as a dog that serves to mitigate a physical disability, a hearing dog, or a guide dog. If convicted, the offender could pay a five thousand dollar fine. If evidence shows a dog owner could have restrained their dog and prevented the attack, they may also be forced to pay veterinary bills, and pay the cost of retraining or replacing the service dog. The training of a guide dog is estimated at costing roughly $45,000 and the cost of training a dog for the deaf or a person with physical disabilities runs between $5,000 and $30,000, respectively.
Aside from the economic strain resulting from an attack, the trauma is akin to being the victim of a robbery or assault due to the physical and psychological effects upon both dog and handler. A study performed by a popular guide dog school revealed that close to one third of dogs are prematurely retired after being attacked. As for Passel, all three of her guide dogs were attacked by aggressive dogs.
Passel and her service dog are heading to Harrisburg for a ceremonial signing of the bill later this week.
To view the original article in the PA press, go to:
The article on the Scottish Attack: