In Florida on Monday, a “Fake service dog bill” advanced in the senate.
Much of this bill is just a restatement of the Americans with Disabilities act, but it adds two criminal offenses:
The bill would make interfering with the disabled and their service animals a second-degree misdemeanor, carrying penalties of up to 60 days in jail, up to $500 in fines and 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves people with disabilities or another entity, at the discretion of a judge.
Under the bill, the same crime and penalties would apply to pet owners who lie about having a disability and falsely claim that their pet is a service animal.
While NAIA has not taken an official position on the bill, we do laud its goals.
With more service animals assisting people with invisible disabilities than ever before, and a growing number of pet owners who feel entitled to bring their companions anywhere and everywhere (and with easy access to vests, harnesses, and other paraphernalia that make their pets look like service animals), it is easy to see why there have been so many recent collisions at this intersection.
But even if it is easy to understand, there is no good reason to harangue somebody with a service animal… just as there is no excuse for falsely declaring your pet a service animal. While people with fake service dogs aren’t acting out of malice, and may not think they are doing anything wrong, their actions hurt the very people who most need the calm, reliable assistance these amazing animals provide.