Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Bill Signing: ESSB 5942, "Layla's Law"
April 25, 2001

Today we sign into law ESSB 5942, which makes it a crime to interfere with or injure a guide dog or service animal assisting a person who is blind.

One of the roles of state government is to provide protection for Washington's most vulnerable citizens. Currently, our state has laws that prohibit interference with blind people's use of public facilities or injuring or killing a guide dig or service animal, but we have no clear prohibition against interfering with such a service animal.

I would like to introduce Hy Cohen and his guide dog "Layla", for whom this law is named.

For almost a year Layla and he were prevented from leaving their Mountlake Terrace home because of an aggressive dog that was allowed to run loose in their neighborhood. This dog would intimidate them as they ventured from their home, at times even stopping Hy and Layla in the middle of the street.

As a result of this, Layla began to fear all other dogs and Hy and she were unable to go about their normal daily lives. Imagine if one you heard that a neighbor of yours was prevented from walking to the market for food or traveling outside their home for a doctor's visit.

That is what many of our citizens who rely on guide dogs face every day.

In fact, according to a recent study conducted by "Guide Dogs for the Blind", 31 percent of people who rely on guide dogs report incidents of intimidation and harassment by loose dogs. No person should ever be prevented from the basic right of walking in their own neigborhood.

Thanks to the hard work of Hy, his father Shelly, Barry Sheridan of the Assistance Guide Club, senators Rosemary McAuliffe and Jeri Costa and Representative Phyllis Kenney, we now have "Layla's Law".

This bill makes it illegal for a person or their dog to interfere or injure another guide dog or service animal. These service animals are not just pets. They serve as many of our citizens' lifelines to their surrounding communities.

By performing miracles everyday these service animals and their owners deserve the protection of the law that is guaranteed to all of our citizens: The basic right to move about your own neighborhood.

It is because of them and the example of Hy and Layla that I am honored to sign this bill into law today.
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