IAADP
International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners


March 19, 2001

Dear Representative Ballasio and Members of the Criminal Justice Corrections Committee

The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners is the largest cross-disability organization of people partnered with guide, hearing and service dogs. iaadp'S goal is to foster the assistance dog movement through education and advocacy.

As part of that mission the organization workS toward protecting and extending IAADP members' rights to SAFELY TRAVEL IN THEIR COMMUNITIES. Therefore, IAADP urges you to vote favorably on ESSB 5942. This bill, known as Layla's Law, has been drafted to provide greater safeguards for disabled Washingtonians who have selected assistance dogs to provide greater independence and improve their quality of life. By criminalizing attacks on guide, hearing and service dogs, this bill will act as a deterrent to those who, either through intent or negligence, cause harm to dogs trained to aid disabled people.

In my capacity as president of IAADP, I have heard of a number of incidents in which assistance dogs have been injured or killed by uncontrolled dogs or malicious individuals. In response to these devastating situations, bills similar to ESSB 5942 have been passed in many states, including California, Texas and Massachusetts.

Guide, hearing and service dogs have been carefully selected and go through many months of supervised training to prepare them for their assistive roles. They become an essential element in mitigating the effects of a disability and ensuring an enriched quality of life for their disabled partners. For those of us working with assistance dogs, the bond that develops between human and dog goes well beyond the day to day help we receive. The dogs become extensions of ourselves. Breaking the partnership, for whatever reason, is an emotional trauma. When this break occurs because of someone else's negligence or malice, the emotional distress is even greater.

Please end the nightmare experienced by Hi Cohen and other disabled Washintonians. Protect their right to leave their homes, walk the streets and go about their daily lives without fear of injury to their canine partners. Imagine living in a neighborhood where you are afraid to allow your child out the front door to play or go to school? You would expect your legislators to come to your defense, and that is what Hi Cohen and other disabled people are asking you to do.

IAADP urges you, as a member of the Committee, to pass ESSB 5942 on to the House of Representatives, where it can receive full discussion and, hopefully become Washington law. This bill will be a testament to Washington's goal of improving the quality of life for all citizens and making the state a safer place for those disabled members of the community selecting assistance dogs to enhance their lives.

Sincerely,

Ed Eames, Ph.D., President



Update

This bill did pass through the senate unanimously. The vote was 47 in favor, zero "no" votes and three absent. This is certainly good news.



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