Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a new law into place that, beginning July 1, 2015, will make faking a service dog a criminal offense.
Anyone caught misrepresenting a pet as a service animal could face up to 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
Because service dogs are legally and rightfully granted access to places, like restaurants, retail stores, and on-board airplanes where dogs aren’t typically allowed, and because of the prevalence of service dog vests and fraudulent “service dog certifications” available online, fake service dogs are becoming a common occurrence.
But, proving whether a service dog is genuine is going to be difficult, especially for businesses that, under the new law, will face second degree misdemeanor charges if they prevent a disabled person from bringing a service dog into the establishment.
“The only questions that can really be asked of them are: is this a service animal and if so, what is this service animal trained to do?” lawyer Jason Quick explained to WINK. “Once the person asserts this is a service animal, there’s really no way for a business owner to verify whether or not this is true.”
The hope is that having the law in place will deter people from faking service dogs. But, people charged with falsifying a service animal will likely only be caught when an incident, such as the dog acting out, destroying property, or attacking/biting someone, occurs and is investigated.
It’s a step in the right direction, but a viable solution to a growing nationwide problem is still needed.