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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 6, 2019 11:36 AM
From: Senator Anthony H. Williams and Sen. Bob Mensch
To: All Senate members
Subject: Misrepresentation as a Service Animal
In the near future, we will be introducing legislation to create the offense of falsely representing an animal as a service animal.

The American Humane Association estimates that there are 20,000 working service dogs throughout the United States, assisting their partners in everything from routine daily tasks to medical emergency. Dogs and other animals can be trained to assist the blind navigate city streets, detect seizures in children and alert their caregivers, or soothe panic attacks related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans. Their service is integral to helping their human companions lead more ordinary lives.

However, as service animals have become more ubiquitous in society, so have the incidents of pets misrepresented as service animals in order to gain access to public spaces. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals must be permitted public access and business owners are permitted only to ask whether the animal is required do to disability and what it is trained to do. While protecting the rights and privacy of disabled citizens who have a genuine need for service animals, the law has created the opportunity for animal lovers to bring untrained and misbehaved dogs into public spaces.

Because of incidents nationwide where pets were misrepresented as a service animals to gain public access, twenty-three states have moved to create penalties for such misrepresentation. Our bill would create a deterrent to passing off an untrained animal as a service animal to access public space, while leaving in place protections under the ADA. Similar to falsely using a disability placard to get a better parking space, this violation would be a summary offense with a fine not to exceed $100.

Please join us in protecting the rights of legitimate service animals to public access by reducing the occurrence of fraudulent misrepresentation. If you have any questions or comments, please contact our legislative offices at 717-787-5970 for Senator Anthony H. Williams or 717-787-3110 for Senator Bob Mensch. Thank you.

Introduced as SB603