Recently, I had the opportunity to visit The Seeing Eye campus in Morristown, NJ. The Seeing Eye is the oldest dog guide school in the world, and provides guide dogs for the blind from all across the United States and Canada. I was first introduced to The Seeing Eye this past August, after a violent pitbull attack on one of my constituents, Roger Woodhour, and his guide dog in training, Dusty, a 9-month-old German Shepherd. Today, both Dusty and Roger are recuperating well from their physical wounds, but the emotional and mental toll on Dusty remains to be seen. Roger continues to work with Dusty in hopes that the dog can continue within the Seeing Eye program. Our fear is that, like most attacks on guide dogs, the service animal will be so traumatized by the event, they can no longer serve. This leads to great expense and inconvenience for the blind person who relies on the dog, and current state laws do not go far enough to protect their rights.
I’m determined to change that.
My staff and I were recently invited to spend the afternoon at the Seeing Eye Campus to learn more about their work. I had the pleasure of meeting James Kutsch, President and CEO of the Seeing Eye, along with his wife Ginger and some of the trainers who work closely with the dogs for about two years, until they are ready to be placed in a new home to serve the blind. During the visit, I had the opportunity to learn about the history of the school, the current program, and the general process once a dog and a candidate are paired together. I also had the opportunity to walk blindfolded with Nola, a guide dog in training who was just days away from being partnered with a blind adoptee.
The attack on Dusty, along with the valuable information provided by Roger & Sheila Woodhour and folks at The Seeing Eye, encouraged me to introduce A-3226, also known as “Dusty’s Law.”
Dusty’s Law establishes a fine up to $500 on the owner of an animal that attacks, injures, or interfers with serivce dogs, law enforcement animals, or search and rescue animals. The law is intended to encourage animal owners to closely monitor their animals while in the presence of other serivce animals. Please join me in supporting this important legislation.