Hawaii Joins Several Other States to Crack Down on Fake Service Dogs

The problem of fake service dogs has spread to the 50th state.

When a building or business has a no-pet policy, service animals are always the exception. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all privately owned businesses including restaurants, retail stores, hotels, move theaters, and sports complexes to allow people with disabilities to bring their service dogs onto the premises and in all areas where customers are typically allowed.

The problem arises, however, when people who don't have disabilities try to disguise their pets as service dogs. Ready for a solution, Hawaii is the most recent state to take legal action.

An assistance dog is trained to aid or assist an individual with a disability. Many are trained by an assistance dog organization, or by their handler, often with the help of a professional trainer.

Service dogs are described as dogs specially trained to perform functions including guiding, signaling, and assisting their handler in any way. They are not pets, and they serve to perform vital tasks for their handlers.

Along with learning their specific jobs, service dogs are also trained how to behave in public areas. They don't act aggressively toward other people or dogs, they don't bark at strangers, they don't go to the bathroom inside, and they don't steal food from tables. Overall, they're trained to have perfect manners so their presence in a store or restaurant doesn't cause a disruption.

A typical pet, on the other hand, isn't required to receive special training. Some dogs behave excellently indoors and others don't, but a dog's conduct doesn't negate the fact that posing a pet as a service dog hurts people who honestly rely on their dogs in public. There are countless accounts of fake service dogs causing disruptions and even attacking legitimate working dogs.

Even when they sit quietly in a purse or a shopping cart, the misrepresentation confuses the actual concept of what a working dog is and puts unfair scrutiny on those with disabilities.

Spitz in the grocery cart

Hawaii lawmakers have recognized the problem, and they've introduced a bill that will officially make it a criminal offense to "falsely present an animal as a service animal." Conviction is now punishable by up to six months in prison or up to $1,000 in fines for a first offense. Before January of this year when the law first went into effect, there was no legal repercussion, and therefore, no real deterrent.

State Senator Russell Ruderman sponsored the bill and is optimistic the new law will help stop people from abusing the service dog system. Massachusetts, Colorado, Virginia, and at least 15 other states have enacted similar laws in the past few years.

Are fake service dogs a problem in your state? Let us know in the comments.

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