Saturday, July 4, 2015

Faking Service Animals Now A Crime In Florida


TALLAHASSEE, Florida - As of July 1, 2015, it is a crime in Florida to pass off a pet as a service animal. The bill was sponsored by Florida Representative Jimmie Smith (R-Inverness), Chair of the Florida House Veterans & Military Affairs subcommittee, and was signed into law on June 11, 2015 by Florida Governor Rick Scott. 

Although there are no statistics as to how widespread the false claiming of service animals might be, there are anecdotal references on blogs and social media where people have claimed to witness the practice - especially when it comes to Florida's tourist attractions such as theme parks and beaches.

The law provides that:

A person who knowingly and willfully misrepresents herself or himself, through conduct or verbal or written notice, as using a service animal and being qualified to use a service animal or as a trainer of a service animal commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083 and must perform 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves individuals with disabilities, or for another entity or organization at the discretion of the court, to be completed in not more than 6 months.

However, it may be difficult to enforce the law. That's because under the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act, only two questions can be asked of the person claiming the animal is a service animal: (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. Additionally, the person is not required to provide documentation that the animal is indeed a service animal.

Image Credit: Wikimedia/SatuSuro

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