Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Canadian law seeks to protect service animals

From CBC News in Canada:

The opposition New Democrats are calling for a new law to give extra protection to police dogs and guide dogs that help disabled people.

On Nov. 22, a private member's bill, the protection of service animals act, was introduced in the Saskatchewan legislature.

The bill would set fines and allow for the courts to provide for compensation and, if necessary, obedience training orders in cases where other people's dogs are bothering service animals.

One person who might benefit from such a law is Saskatoon's Robin East, who says on a weekly basis his walk to the bus stop is interrupted when his guide dog Seinfeld is harrassed by dogs running loose.

"They're circling my dog and nipping at his heels, and as a blind person I have no way to protect myself or my dog," he said.

East says some people even kick service dogs knowing their owners can't see the abuse. What's good about the proposed new law is that it would not just increase the penalties for hurting his dog, it would offer him compensation, he said.

"If my dog gets hurt or damaged in any way or needs to be retrained I can get redress, I can go back and I can ask the courts to ask those people pay for that cost, rather than the taxpayer itself," he said.

The government says that kind of compensation is possible now, through a civil action.

Justice Minister Don Morgan noted the Saskatchewan Party government has a bill before the legislature, the animal protection act, which will increase fines from $5,000 to $25,000 and jail penalties from six months to 24 months in animal cruelty cases.

However, that law doesn't deal specificially with service animals.

Morgan said he will consider the NDP's proposed law if it makes it easier to protect service animals and the people they work for.