Fake Service Dog Laws: Protecting working service dogs

Fake Service Dog Laws

Fake Service Dog Laws:

Protecting working service dogs


DOES YOUR STATE HAVE A FAKE SERVICE DOG LAW?

Click Law Types Below

YesYesarrow

This state has enacted a law making it illegal to represent a non-service animal as a service animal.

NoNoarrow

This state does not have any specific laws prohibiting the misrepresentation of a service dog.

ProposedProposedarrow

This state has proposed legislation related to service dog representation as of February 2020.


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ALABAMA

Yes

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

More info on Alabama State Laws

ALASKA

No

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.

More info on Alaska State Laws

ARIZONA

Yes

Arizona House Bill 2588 makes it a class 2 misdemeanor to misrepresent an animal as a service animal or service animal in training. If found guilty, the person may be fined up to $250 per violation. This bill was signed into law on April 17, 2018 – Source

More info on Arizona State Laws

ARKANSAS

Yes

Senate Bill 654 was signed into law April 17, 2019. It makes the misrepresentation of an animal as a service animal a crime subject to a civil penalty of up to $250 per violation. – Source

More info on Arkansas State Laws

CALIFORNIA

Yes

According to California Penal Code 365.7 effective January 1, 1995, any person who misrepresents themselves as the owner of a service dog is guilty of a misdemeanor. Penalties may include up to six months in the county jail, a fine up to $1,000, or both. – Source

More info on California State Laws

COLORADO

Yes

Colorado’s governor signed House Bill 16-1426 into law on June 10, 2016. The law states that representing a non-service animal as a service animal may carry a fine between $25 and $500 depending on the number of offenses. – Source

More info on Colorado State Laws

CONNECTICUT

No

In 2019, proposed bill H.B. 7106 about service dog representation did not become law. As of February 2020, there is no law in Connecticut against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog. – Source

More info on Connecticut State Laws

D.C.

No

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

More info on D.C. State Laws

DELAWARE

No

As of February 2020, there is no law in Delaware against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.

More info on Delaware State Laws

FLORIDA

Yes

Florida Statue 413.08(2015) states it is a misdemeanor for a person to misrepresent themselves as qualified to use a service animal. Violators will be required to perform 30 hours of community service. – Source

More info on Florida State Laws

GEORGIA

No

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

More info on Georgia State Laws

HAWAII

Yes

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

More info on Hawaii State Laws

IDAHO

Yes

Idaho Statute 18-5811A makes it a misdemeanor to misrepresent an animal as a service dog or to falsify a disability in order to gain the treatment or benefits granted to people with disabilities. – Source

More info on Idaho State Laws

ILLINOIS

Proposed

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

More info on Illinois State Laws

INDIANA

Yes

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

More info on Indiana State Laws

IOWA

Yes

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

More info on Iowa State Laws

KANSAS

Yes

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

More info on Kansas State Laws

KENTUCKY

Proposed

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

More info on Kentucky State Laws

LOUISIANA

No

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

More info on Louisiana State Laws

MAINE

Yes

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

More info on Maine State Laws

MARYLAND

No

As of February 2020, there is no law in Maryland against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.

More info on Maryland State Laws

MASSACHUSETTS

No

As of February 2020, there is no law in Massachusetts against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog. – Source

More info on Massachusetts State Laws

MICHIGAN

Yes

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

More info on Michigan State Laws

MINNESOTA

Yes

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

More info on Minnesota State Laws

MISSISSIPPI

No

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

MISSOURI

Proposed

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

More info on Missouri State Laws

MONTANA

Yes

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

More info on Montana State Laws

NEBRASKA

Yes

Nebraska Revised Statute § 28-1313 makes unlawful use of a white cane or guide dog a Class 3 misdemeanor. – Source

More info on Nebraska State Laws

NEVADA

Yes

As of May 31, 2005, it is a misdemeanor under Nevada Revised Statute 426.805 for a person to misrepresent an animal as a service animal or service animal in training and is punishable by a fine of not more than $500. – Source

More info on Nevada State Laws

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Yes

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

New Hampshire Governor’s Commission on Disability FAWs
More info on New Hampshire State Laws

NEW JERSEY

Yes

NJ Rev Stat § 10:5-29.5 (2013) states that any person who misrepresents a dog as a guide dog or guide dog in training will be fined between $100 and $500. – Source

More info on New Jersey State Laws

NEW MEXICO

Yes

New Mexico Senate Bill 320 passed in 2013 makes it a misdemeanor to misrepresent an animal as a service animal. – Source

More info on New Mexico State Laws

NEW YORK

Yes

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

More info on New York State Laws

NORTH CAROLINA

Yes

In North Carolina, § 168-4.5 penalizes the misrepresentation of a service dog, and a violation is considered a Class 3 misdemeanor. – Source

More info on North Carolina State Laws

NORTH DAKOTA

Yes

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

More info on North Dakota State Laws

OHIO

No

As of February 2020, there is no law in Ohio against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.

More info on Ohio State Laws

OKLAHOMA

Yes

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

More info on Oklahoma State Laws

OREGON

No

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.

More info on Oregon State Laws

PENNSYLVANIA

No

As of January 2019, there is no law in Pennsylvania against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.

More info on Pennsylvania State Laws

RHODE ISLAND

Yes

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

More info on Rhode Island State Laws

SOUTH CAROLINA

Yes

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

More info on South Carolina State Laws

SOUTH DAKOTA

Yes

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

More info on South Dakota State Laws

TENNESSEE

No

As of February 2020, there is no law in Tennessee against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.

More info on Tennessee State Laws

TEXAS

Yes

Under the Texas Human Resources Code Sec. 121.006, any person who misrepresents an animal as a service animal is guilty of a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $300 and 30 hours of community service. – Source

More info on Texas State Laws

UTAH

Yes

Misrepresenting an animal as a service animal, or falsifying information in order to gain a service animal without necessity is a Class C misdemeanor under Utah Human Services Code 62A-5b-106. – Source

More info on Utah State Laws

VERMONT

No

As of February 2020, there is no law in Vermont against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.

More info on Vermont State Laws – PDF
More info on Vermont State Laws

VIRGINIA

Yes

In Virginia, § 51.5-44.1 states that fraudulent representation of a service dog to gain public access for that dog is a Class 4 misdemeanor. – Source

More info on Virginia State Laws

WASHINGTON

Yes

Effective January 1, 2019, under Washington’s HB 2822, any person who misrepresents an animal as a service animal has committed a civil infraction, which carries a penalty of $500. – Source

More info on Washington State Laws

WEST VIRGINIA

Yes

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

More info on West Virginia State Laws

WISCONSIN

No

As of February 2020, there is no law in Wisconsin against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.

More info on Wisconsin State Laws – wisconsin.gov

WYOMING

Yes

Wyoming’s HB114(2017) makes it a misdemeanor to misrepresent an animal as a service animal, which carries a penalty of up to $750. – Source

More info on Wyoming State Laws

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.

17 thoughts on “Fake Service Dog Laws: Protecting working service dogs”

  1. I have introduced HB 3098 in the Oregon State Legislature. I’m going to lobby this hard and so far I have alot of support!

    1. As a puppy raiser for Canine Companions for Independence, I appreciate all you can do to make this happen. Fake service dogs make it increasingly harder for disabled and handicapped children, adults and veterans to live a decent fulfilled life.

      1. As a three time graduate of Canine Companions for Independence, I can tell you there is a great need for something to be done regarding fraudulent service dogs—whether it be stronger laws, better education for businesses and the public, or a special ID for legit service dogs.
        Each of my service dogs and I have been attacked by frauds bringing their pets where they do not belong. They simply do not understand all that goes into the making of a service dog, and worse; they usually do not care.
        I need the exceptionally well trained and properly socialized dog at my side, and that means doing all I can to keep Tansy healthy and happy. She is literally the extension of my arms and legs! ( even helping me towel off after I shower ). It is terrifying to see someone’s pet coming after you for simply shopping or trying to run errands like everyone else.

        1. this has been argued by someone with a legit service dog, they say asking anything for proof is a violation of their civil rights, and that they should not be inconvenienced by having to show any kind of id or paperwork. this person wants to be able to go anywhere with his dog without any questions. unless someone is willing to give wiggle room in the situation, then nothing can be really done. there will always be abuse.

    2. Thank you for the update Darin Campbell. We’ll update the map and table accordingly and follow the progress of your bill. Thank you for your hard work on this bill.

  2. You grayed out the Lower Peninsula of MI but not the Upper Peninsula. Does that mean it’s illegal in 1/2 of the state?

    1. Hi B Savard,
      Nope, that was an error in the coding for the map. It should be fixed now. If it’s still not appearing as one state, you may need to clear your browser cache.

      Sorry, Michigan!

  3. Something needs to be done to prevent all and sundry from dragging dogs through the grocery stores that are not actual service dogs. We have so many that s brought into the store and I know of only 1 that is an actual service e dog.

  4. You might also correct the wording in the legend, which seems to pertain to seat belt restraints for dogs in cars.

    Glad to see the map, though, so thank you.

  5. What about emotional support animals? It is my understanding that the ADA defines them differently and that they do not need to be trained in any way.

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