ATLANTA - Guide dogs for the handicapped would get a special law
protecting them under a bill proposed Thursday in the Georgia House.
The proposal would make it a felony to kill a guide dog. The pups would
also get legal protection from harassment and theft.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Tom Rice of Norcross, said guide dogs are
currently protected under animal cruelty laws but need a special place
in Georgia code to enumerate what cannot be done to them and the
penalties for guide dog crimes.
For instance, a person who maliciously beats, harasses or kills a guide
dog could be fined between $2,500 and $10,000 and sent to prison for at
least a year.
It would be a misdemeanor to interfere with the use of a guide dog. The
bill even makes "intimidation" of a guide dog criminal behavior.
Citizens could also be punished if their dogs attack and hurt a guide
dog, and the bill calls for restitution for veterinary bills.
The Republican sponsor said the bill is supported by the Georgia Guide
Dogs Users Association. State law currently imposes a fine of up to
$2,000 or 30 days in jail or both for denying rights to a blind, deaf or
disabled person who uses a trained service dog.
"What we're trying to do is categorize the offenses so they won't be
subject to wide interpretation," Rice said.