Arizona Latest to Crack Down on Fake Service Dogs

By: - April 20, 2018 12:00 am

Chris Slavin of Danvers, Massachusetts, with her 3-year-old service dog, Earle. At least 19 states have adopted measures cracking down on people who misrepresent their pets as service animals. Arizona is the latest to do so.

Courtesy of Chris Slavin

Arizona has become the latest state to try to crack down on pet owners who fraudulently pass off their animals as service pets so they can bring them into stores, restaurants and other public places.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill into law this week making it illegal to misrepresent a pet as a service animal. Violators could be subject to fines as high as $250. At least 19 other states have adopted similar measures.

Service dogs, which are trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability, were first used by people with vision and hearing impairments. More recently, they have been used by people in wheelchairs, people who are prone to seizures, and those with autism or mental illness. The American Humane Association, which promotes the welfare and safety of animals, says there are 20,000 service dogs working in the U.S.

Real service dogs undergo months or years of specialized training so they are well-behaved in crowded places and around other dogs. But there is no a unified certification indicating that a dog has received such training, making laws such as Arizona’s difficult to enforce.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires all places open to the public, such as businesses, government agencies and entertainment venues, to give access to service dogs and their owners. Proprietors can ask whether the dog is required because of a disability and what tasks the dog is trained to perform, but it is illegal for them to request documentation for the dog or to ask the nature of the owner’s disability.

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Michael Ollove

Michael Ollove covers health care for Stateline. Ollove worked for many years at The Baltimore Sun, as an enterprise reporter and an editor.