New Jersey's 7th Legislative District

Senator Diane Allen

Senator Diane Allen

Allen’s ‘Charlie’s Law’ to Protect Service Dog Access to Public Spaces Passes Senate

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The New Jersey Senate has passed “Charlie’s Law,” legislation sponsored by Senator Diane Allen (R-Burlington) that creates civil penalties for preventing a person with a service animal from accessing a public facility.

Sen. Diane Allen’s “Charlie’s Law” creates civil penalties for blocking service animals from accessing public facilities. The law is named for a service dog who was ordered out of an airport while accompanying Cherry Hill teen, Ben Shore. (Flickr)

“Charlie’s Law” (S-2662) is named after a service dog who was denied access to an airport while assisting his owner, Ben Shore, a Cherry Hill teen who is on the autism spectrum and suffers from panic attacks.

“Service animals ensure people with disabilities can navigate public spaces safely and independently. They are not just faithful companions,” Senator Allen said. “The current reporting process is cumbersome for victims and investigations are taking too long. Anyone who experiences what Ben Shore had to endure at that airport should be entitled to the most expedient response possible under the law.”

A person who violates Charlie’s Law, in addition to any other relief or affirmative action provided by law, would be liable to a civil penalty of no less than: $250 for the first violation; $500 for the second violation; and $1,000 for the third and each subsequent violation.

Under current law, any person with a disability accompanied by a service or guide dog trained by a recognized training agency or school is entitled, with his dog, to access all public facilities.

To enforce the current statute, the Division of Civil Rights has to conduct an investigation, which is a lengthy process that often isn’t ever finished. Under “Charlie’s Law,” the local law enforcement would be required to issue a summons and the municipal court would have authority to impose the penalty.

“Just because a disability is not immediately recognizable doesn’t mean it isn’t there,” Senator Allen said, noting that Charlie was ordered out of the airport by an employee who did not believe that he was a service dog. “It is wholly unacceptable and a violation of State and federal law to block someone with a service animal from entering a public space, whether that disability is visible or not. Charlie’s Law will empower law enforcement to respond immediately, so that no one has to wait for justice to be served.”

Under “Charlie’s Law,” the penalty assessed would be appropriated to the Department of Law and Public Safety to fund educational programs for law enforcement officers on the right of a person with a disability to have a service or guide dog in a place of public accommodation. The bill also requires the Attorney General to establish a public awareness campaign to inform the public about the provisions of the bill. The bill now heads to the Governor’s desk for final approval.

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