“Denying access to service dogs is the same as denying access to the disabled who rely on these dogs to live their lives as active members of society,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney. “They aren’t just pets or companions, they are essential to the people they serve. This bill will help to ensure the rights of the disabled are protected and the ability of the service dogs to accompany them is safeguarded.”
To enforce the current statute, the Division of Civil Rights has to conduct an investigation, which is a lengthy process that often isn’t ever finished. Under this bill, the local law enforcement would be required to issue a summons and the municipal court would have authority to impose the penalty.
- Under current law, any person with a disability accompanied by a service or guide dog trained by a recognized training agency or school is entitled, with his dog, to access all public facilities, subject only to the following conditions:
- A person with a disability, if accompanied by a service or guide dog, shall keep such dog in his immediate custody at all times;
- A person with a disability accompanied by a service or guide dog shall not be charged any extra fee or payment for admission to or use of any public facility;
- A person with a disability who has a service or guide dog in his possession shall be liable for any damages done to the premises of a public facility by such dog.
The penalty assessed would be appropriated to the Department of Law and Public Safety to fund educational programs for law enforcement officers on the right of a person with a disability to have a service or guide dog in a place of public accommodation. The bill also requires the Attorney General to establish a public awareness campaign to inform the public about the provisions of the bill.