A measure that seeks to crack down on abuses of those who misrepresent their pets as service animals, while ensuring access to authentic trained service animals, was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Rep. Mike Steele, R-Chelan, who authored House Bill 2822, says the idea came from a 12th District business owner. While drafting the measure, Steele consulted with members of the disabled community and businesses who believe the state needs to crack down on these types of abuses. The bill makes it a civil infraction, with a $500 fine, for people trying to falsely pass their pets off as service animals.
“We’ve all heard the stories about the boa constrictor around the neck, or the attempt to bring a peacock on a plane. Every time a person fakes a service animal, it puts the real service animals in jeopardy, and it risks harm to others,” said Steele.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act National Network, “A service animal is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals.”
“Real service animals are trained to provide assistance for people with disabilities. Several disabled people who testified in favor of this bill articulated genuine concerns because those who falsely imply their pet as a service animal create confusion and erode trust for those who are accompanied by real service animals,” added Steele.
As of last October, 19 states have similar measures to prohibit false claims of service animals.
“It’s not right to park in a disabled parking spot if you don’t have a disability. It’s not acceptable to pretend to be blind to get a reduced bus fare. And it’s wrong to take advantage of service animal rules so you can have the same privileges as disabled people who need assistance from legitimate service animals,” said Steele. “We’re saying with the signing of this bill, if you fake it in Washington state and the pet is not legitimately trained as a service animal, there will be consequences.”
The bill takes effect Jan. 1, 2019.