To say that Passle Helminski and her service dog, Kate, have a close relationship is an understatement. The three-year-old Golden Retriever is like family to the Erie resident. And she knows full well how important service animals like Kate are to others who depend on them.
On Wednesday, Helminski saw a decade-plus-long lobbying effort come to fruition as Gov. Tom Corbett affixed his ceremonial signature that imposes criminal penalties on the owner or co-owner of a dog that attacks a service animal withour provocation.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. John Evans, an Erie Republican, includes fines of up to $5,000, and, if warranted the veterinary and replacement costs of the service dog. Corbett actually signed the bill into law several weeks ago. But the administration frequently holds such public events for the benefit of stakeholders of the legislation and for publicity purposes.
For Helminski, the issue is a personal one. She said Kate’s been attacked three times. A previous dog was attacked six times and a dog she owned before that was attacked twice and died from its wounds. The animals are trained not to fight back, making the attacks that much worse, she said.
The attacks often result in the dogs’ death or them being unable to work after the attack.
“It’s taken me 12 years, 12 wonderful years until we had it passed,” she said. “And I’m so grateful that Gov. Corbett has signed it into law.”
At a news conference at a suburban Harrisburg shopping mall, Corbett, who shares the executive residence with his wife, First Lady Susan Corbett, and two Airedale puppies named Harry and Penny, said those who allow attacks on service dogs or any dogs are “the lowest form of humanity.”
“They’re our posessions, but they’re also our companions,” Corbett said, adding later, “If you treat them well, there’s a bond there that is extremely important.”