Note from DoggyMom:
It’s been fairly easy to buy fake service dog gear online and too many people think that that’s okay – to get their pet dog into a restaurant or onto a plane. I love dogs; I particularly love well-mannered and trained dogs (which are a reflection of their owners). Whenever a fake service dog causes a problem, it undermines those of us who want a more open and dog-friendly community which promotes and supports responsible dog ownership.
Most importantly, the people who rely on service dogs have come under suspicion and have been denied access to the places that they lawfully have a right to go. Given the investment and support needed to train a legitimate service dog, and the proven benefits to their human recipient, these incidents are tragedies for all involved.
It’s good to see penalties for those who misrepresent their dog as a service dog.
People who falsely claim their pet is a service animal could soon face criminal charges in Alabama.
Starting Sept. 1, there will be a criminal penalty for those who misrepresent a pet as a service animal or animal-in-training in public spaces or when seeking housing accommodations in Alabama. Making false claims will be a Class C misdemeanor resulting in a $100 fine and 100 hours of community service to be performed with an organization that serves people with disabilities or one approved by the court.
The Alabama act stipulates that a service animals are limited to two types: a dog or a miniature horse. The animal must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks that benefit a person with a disability, such as a guide dog for someone with visual impairments or an animal trained to provide help to someone with post traumatic stress disorder. The ADA does not restrict service animals to a particular dog breed and service animals are generally allowed in all public areas and private businesses.
Animals that provide comfort or emotional support just by being with someone are not classified as service animals under the ADA.
“A service animal may not be a pet,” the Alabama law states. “The crime-deterrent effect of the presence of an animal and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort or companionship may not constitute work or tasks…”
The law also allows for signs to be posted in public places with the message: “Service animals are welcome. It is illegal for a person to misrepresent an animal in that person’s possession as a service animal.”
The bill makes Alabama one of 25 states that have laws related to fraudulent representation of service animals. Penalties range from up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000 in California to fines of $100 in New Jersey.