Fake Service Dog Laws:
Protecting working service dogs
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This state has a law enacted which prohibits driving with an unrestrained dog in your vehicle.
This state does not have any law enacted which prohibits driving with an unrestrained dog in your vehicle.
As of April 2017, there was a law currently proposed in this state to prohibit driving with an unrestrained dog in the vehicle. This is currently a “no law” state but is labeled to indicate legislation is being considered.
As of January 2019, there is no law in Alaska against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
As of January 2019, there is no law in Arkansas against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
Colorado’s Governor signed House Bill 16-1426 into law on June 10, 2016 which expands Colorado Revised Statutes §18-13-107.3—misrepresentation of entitlement to an assistance animal, or representing a non-service animal as such, may carry a fine between $25 and $500 depending on the number of offenses. – Source
As of January 2019, there is no law in Connecticut against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
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 January 2019, there is no law in Delaware against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
Georgia does not currently have a law banning misrepresenting a service dog, however, a 2018 Senate resolution created a committee to explore the need for laws criminalizing fraudulent assistance animals. This was not a fake service dog law, but an exploration of the need for one. – Source
Idaho Statute 18-5811A makes it a misdemeanor to misrepresent a service dog or to falsify a disability in order to gain the treatment or benefits granted to people with disabilities A new bill introduced in the 2018 legislative session aims to update the original statute, but has not yet passed. – 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 a service dog by fitting it with a vest, leash, harness, or otherwise, make false claims of a disability in order to obtain a service animal, or provide fake documents to a lessor in order to fraudulently claim a pet as a service or emotional support animal. – 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, and the intentional misrepresentation of a service animal or service dog in training is a simple misdemeanor which 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
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 January 2019, there is no law in Maryland against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
Though there is currently no law against service dog fraud in Massachusettes, House Bill 2277 was proposed during the 2018 session to address misrepresentation of assistance animals. The bill accompanied study order H.4721 which was discharged to the committee on House Rules in July 2018. As of January 2019, the bill stands at 25% progression and has not yet passed. – Source
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. A telephone complaint hotline accepts reports of violations. – Source
Minnesota Statutes, chapters 604A; 609 makes it a petty misdemeanor to misrepresent a service animal in order to take advantage of the rights afforded to a person who qualifies for a service dog under federal law. Subsequent offenses are considered a misdemeanor. This update to the current law was signed by the Governor on April 20, 2018 and went into effect August 1, 2018. – Source
As of January 2019, there is no law in Mississippi against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog, however, amendments were made in 2018 to section 43-6-153, Mississippi Code of 1972 to further define service animals and their roles. – Source
2018 update to bill includes PTSD and animals “necessary” for assistance More info on State Laws
Missouri House Bill HB2031 was proposed during the 2018 legislative session to make it a class C misdemeanor to falsely represent a service dog, to falsify documents for someone else to misrepresent a service dog, or to impersonate a person with a disability in order to acquire a service animal. The bill passed the house committee but died in chamber. As of January 2019, there is no law enacted in Missouri to prohibit the misrepresentation of a service dog. – Source
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
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 January 2019, 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
As of January 2019, there is no law in Oregon against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
As of January 2019, there is no law in Pennsylvania against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
In March 2018, RI H7612 was introduced in the Regular Session that would issue a civil penalty for misrepresenting a dog as a service dog, which may carry a fine up to $500, 30 hours of community service, or both. As of January 2019, the house has passed the bill, which is at 25% progression. – Source
Two House Bills, H.B. 1137 and H.B. 5041 were proposed during the 2018 legislative session to recommend amendments to South Carolina state laws and establish penalties for intentionally misrepresenting service animals. Proposed penalties include fines up to $5,000 and community service, depending on number of offenses. As of December 2018, bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources (1137) and Committee on Judiciary (5041). – Source
As of January 2019, there is no law in Tennessee against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
As of January 2019, there is no law in West Virginia against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
As of January 2019, there is no law in Wisconsin against falsely claiming that a dog is a service dog.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 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."
While the ADA is a federal civil rights law and may override state laws that violate the ADA, the ADA's website (https://adata.org/faq/what-service-animal) states "Laws similar to the ADA, as well as local states; counties; and cities, may have different and more broad definitions of 'service animal.' Check with your local ADA Center."
Additional Reading: Stop Faking Service Dogs
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.
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.
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.