State Representative Cara Pavalock-D’Amato (R-77) recently testified in favor of her proposed bill to make intentionally interfering with service dogs a crime.
“Guide and assistance dogs help individuals who are blind, deaf, and mobility impaired do the day to day activities that most of us take for granted, such as grocery shopping, attending school, and going to work,” said Pavalock-D’Amato in a press release from House Republicans. “Interfering with these dogs at work can put their owner in harm’s way if the dog becomes distracted from its work. Oftentimes, when the dog owner tries to correct a person and/or prevent interference with the dog, they are met with unwanted altercations and harassment. People can become angry and retaliate when they are asked not to pet the working dog by name calling, chasing, and even assault are just some of the responses elicited. In some cases, very serious harm has come to the owner as a result.”
The bill, HB 7214, would make it a criminal act to intentionally interfere with a blind, deaf, or mobility impaired person’s use of a guide dog or an assistance dog, including, but not limited to, any action intended to harass the guide or assistance dog. Persons caught in the act would be charged with a class C misdemeanor.
“Our residents who rely on these guide dogs deserve protection so that they are not hindered from performing their daily activities,” said Pavalock-D’Amato in a press release.
Pavalock-D’Amato yielded her time to Bristol resident, Christine Elkins, a Bristol resident, advocate, and service dog owner. Elkins, accompanied by her service dog, Gretl, testified before the Judiciary Committee in support of the bill. Elkins cited a 2010 Office of Legislative Research report, which confirmed that 24 states have laws protecting service dogs from interference, but Connecticut has yet to implement such protections for its citizens.