Fake Service Dog Laws:
Protecting working service dogs
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This state has enacted a law making it illegal to represent a non-service animal as a service animal.
This state does not have any specific laws prohibiting the misrepresentation of a service dog.
This state has proposed legislation related to service dog representation as of February 2020.
Act 2018-235, § 5, HB198 became law on March 8th, 2018. It makes the misrepresentation of an animal as a service animal for the purposes of housing a crime subject to a civil penalty of $500 or treated as a Class C misdemeanor. Subsequent offenses would be a Class B misdemeanor. – Source
As of February 2020, there is no law in Alaska against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog. However, Alaska Statute §11.46.570 makes criminal impersonation in the second degree a Class A misdemeanor. The definition includes assuming a false identity for the purpose of obtaining a benefit to which the person is not entitled.
While Washington D.C.’s law does not penalize falsely claiming that a dog is a serivice dog as of January 2019, the § 7–1002 does allow businesses to expand on the ADA’s allowed questions with two additional requests. In addition to asking if the dog is a service animal required because of a disability and what work or task has the dog been trained to perform, businesses may ask whether the animal meets the definition of a service animal provided in § 7-1009(5); and whether the animal is housebroken. – Source
As of February 2020, there is no law in Delaware against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
A 2018 Senate resolution created a committee to explore the need for laws criminalizing fraudulent assistance animals. This was not a proposal for a fake service dog law, but an exploration of the need for one. As of February 2020, there is no law in Georgia against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog. – Source
Hawaii SB2461 established a civil penalty for the misrepresentation of a service animal. Service dog fraud carries a fine of between $100 and $500, depending on the number of violations. This bill became law on July 12, 2018 and went into effect on January 1, 2019. – Source
Illinois HB3162 was introduced in 2017 and would have established a service dog licensing program which would have required licensing for any dog acting as a service dog. The bill was similar to the 2016 attempt by the same lawmaker. The bill was criticized as violating the ADA, and did not pass. – Source
Indiana Senate Bill 240 was signed into law in March 2018. This bill tightens rules surrounding emotional support animals and makes it a Class A infraction to misrepresent an animal as an emotional support animal (ESA) by fitting it with a vest, leash, harness, or otherwise, make false claims of a disability in order to obtain an ESA, or provide fake documents to a lessor in order to fraudulently claim a pet as an ESA. – Source
The Iowa Senate Veterans Affairs Committee sponsored Senate File 2365 to make fake service dogs illegal, and it was passed by the Senate on March 7, 2018. A person who misrepresents the need for a service or assistance animal is subject to a civil penalty. The intentional misrepresentation of a service animal or service dog in training is a simple misdemeanor that may be subject to up to 30 days’ confinement and a fine between $65 and $625. – Source
A 2015 Statute makes it a class A nonperson misdemeanor for a person to misrepresent an animal as a service dog, or to misrepresent a disability in order to acquire a service animal. Under Kansas law, a Class A nonperson misdemeanor may be punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both. – Source
As of February 2020, a bill in the House proposes to amend existing Kentucky statute 258.500. If it passes, the amended law would prohibit the misrepresentation of assistance dogs. It would impose the same penalties as the law currently imposes for denial of service to a person with a service dog: A fine of between $250 and $1,000, or imprisonment for a term between 10 and 30 days, or both. – Source
While there is no penalty stated for misrepresenting a service dog, Louisiana’s LA Rev Stat § 21:52 states that the provisions for people with guide dogs are inapplicable unless the person can provide documentation from a training agency of the service dog’s training, and handlers of guide dogs in training must provide proof of their qualifications. – Source
In Maine, Title 17, §1314-A states that it is a civil violation to misrepresent an animal as a service or assistance animal. Misrepresentation includes creating or providing false documents that state an animal is a service animal, as well as the use of fake service dog vests, collars, or harnesses. The penalty for this violation is a fine of up to $1,000. – Source
As of February 2020, there is no law in Maryland against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
In Michigan, a 2016 amendment to Act 82 of 1981 makes it a misdemeanor to falsely represent an animal as a service animal or service animal in training. Violations are subject to imprisonment for not more than 90 days, a fine of up to $500, and/or up to 30 days of community service. The Department of Civil Rights’ complaint hotline accepts reports of violations and refers those reports to law enforcement. – Source
In 2018, Minnesota Statutes, chapters 604A; 609 made it a petty misdemeanor to misrepresent an animal as a service animal in order to take advantage of the rights afforded to a person who qualifies for a service animal under federal law. Subsequent offenses are considered a misdemeanor. – Source
In 2018, lawmakers amended section 43-6-153, Mississippi Code of 1972, to further define service animals and their roles. As of February 2020, there is no law in Mississippi against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog. – Source
2018 update to bill includes PTSD and animals “necessary” for assistance More info on Mississippi State Laws
As of February 2020, lawmakers are considering House Bill 1319, under which it would be a crime to impersonate a person with a disability, or to misrepresent a dog as a service dog, for the purposes of receiving accommodations regarding service dogs. A first offence would be a class C misdemeanor, and subsequent offences would be class B misdemeanors. If passed, the law would become effective August 2020. – Source
In 2019, Montana Code 49-4-221 made it a misdemeanor to knowingly misrepresent an animal as a service dog, and 49-4-222 established penalties for violating the code as follows: First, a person must be issued a written warning that it is illegal to misrepresent an animal as a service animal. Subsequent violations carry increasing fines of between $50 and $1000, and the violator may have to perform community service for an organization that advocates on behalf of people with disabilities. – Source 1 Source 2
New Hampshire Rev. Stat. § 167-D:8 went into effect on January 1, 2015. This law makes it a misdemeanor to put a harness, leash, vest, or other identification on an animal that misrepresents them as a service animal or to impersonate a person with a disability to get a service dog. – Source
Senate Bill S6565 from the 2017-2018 regular sessions amended New York’s §§108, 111 and 118 Agriculture and Markets Law regarding dog licensing to make it a violation to use identification tags classifying a non-service dog as a service animal. Depending on the number of violations, the penalty ranges from fines to imprisonment. – Source
In 2019, Chapter 25-13 of the North Dakota Century Code was amended to make it illegal for an individual to knowingly make a false claim that an animal is a service animal in order to gain admission to a public place or obtain a housing accommodation. – Source
In addition, Section 47‑16‑07.6 of the North Dakota Century Code allows a lessor to evict and collect damage fees up to $1,000 from any tenant who is found guilty of misrepresenting an animal as a service animal or providing false disability documentation to gain access under Fair Housing Laws. – Source
As of February 2020, there is no law in Ohio against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
Effective November 1, 2018, House Bill 3282 authorizes landlords to require documentation of a need for a service animal. The bill further states that any person misrepresenting a service dog or making a false claim of having a disability in order to obtain a service dog may be subject to the penalties within the Oklahoma Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, including eviction, and may be responsible for court fees plus damages up to $1,000. – Source
Oregon House Bill HB 3098 was proposed in the 2019 Regular Session, but it failed to pass. The bill would have made it an offense to misrepresent a dog as a service dog.
As of January 2019, there is no law in Pennsylvania against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
In July of 2019, Chapter 40-9.1 was amended with Section 3.1, “Misrepresentation of service animal.” Misrepresenting an animal as a service animal is a civil violation, punishable by up to 30 hours of comunity service for an organization that serves individuals with disabilities. – Source
In May of 2019, South Carolina’s governor signed Senate Bill 281 into law. Chapter 3, Article 1, Section 47-3-980 states that it is unlawful for a person to intentionally misrepresent an animal as a service animal, and establishes fines of up to $250 for a first offense, up to $500 for a second offense and up to $1000 for a third offense. – Source
Senate Bill 119 makes it illegal for a tenant to provide fraudulent documentation or falsely claim that an animal is a service animal for rental purposes. If such false claim is made, a landlord may evict the tenant and collect a damage fee not to exceed $1,000. – Source
As of February 2020, there is no law in Tennessee against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
Article 15, §5-15-9, of the West Virginia Code states that it is a misdemeanor to misrepresent a dog as a service dog; a first violation is punishable by a fine of up to $200 and/or up to 10 days in jail; subsequent violations are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 30 days in jail. – Source
As of February 2020, there is no law in Wisconsin against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
Notes: How Does the ADA Define a Service Dog?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that defines a service animal as “a dog [or miniature horse] that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks directly related to the person’s disability.”
The key points are that the handler must have a disability, and the service animal must be trained to perform specific tasks to mitigate that disability.
The ADA provides privacy to people with disabilities, and it prevents staff and employers from asking people with service animals about the nature of their disabilities or requesting to see the animal perform its task.
Fearful of being out of compliance with the ADA, some employers and staff don’t ask any questions at all of people who are accompanied by dogs. However, the ADA’s service dog FAQ explains that when it is not obvious that an animal is a service animal,
“[S]taff may ask two specific questions of the handler: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?”
Falsely representing an animal as a service animal carries specific penalties in a majority of states.
States Where Fake Service Dogs are Illegal
A canine wearing a vest with “Service Dog” patches means that animal is working, assisting their handler who has a disability—or does it? An increase in animal-related incidents and fake service dogs has created suspicion among the public in response to dogs labeled as service animals—which in turn causes distress for people who need a service dog to assist with legitimate disabilities. Is it illegal to fake a service dog? The majority of states have passed laws regarding fraudulent service dogs and emotional support animals—and many new bills were introduced during the 2018 legislative session in states without current laws.
As of January 2019, 28 states carry penalties for fraudulently representing service dogs. An additional seven states have proposed bills regarding fake service dogs, many of which will be considered during the 2019 legislative session. The earliest example of such a law is California’s statute, which passed in 1995. The majority of laws since were passed after 2014. Misrepresenting a pet as a service dog in these states may result in fines, community service, or even time in jail.
Is There a Registry for Service Dogs?
There is no registry for service dogs—no website or individual can offer certification that a dog is a legitimate service dog. To qualify for a service dog, one must have a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. And, the service dog must be trained to complete a task related to that disability. A chihuahua trained to recognize the early signs of a seizure and alert someone is an example of a service dog, while a rottweiler that eases stress simply by being present—but is not trained to perform a disability-mitigating task—is not. The latter may be considered an emotional support animal, and a person may be allowed to keep such an animal in no-pets housing per the Fair Housing Act—but ESAs are not the same as service dogs.
How Does the ADA Define a Service Dog?
The ADA’s phrasing allows privacy for people who should not be required or expected to disclose the details of their disability. Some service dog advocates believe state legislation or banning the sale of fake service dog vests does not stop the problem: people who take advantage of the vague wording within the federal service dog law. Unless you have a disability that requires the assistance of a service dog, leave your canine companion home.