ROCHESTER, Minn. – Passing a pet as a service animal is as easy as going online and buying a ‘service animal’ vest for your dog.
But starting August 1, lying about a pet being a needed service animal is illegal.
One man who uses a service dog for his eye sight told KIMT this new law will help give legitimacy to people like him who genuinely need an animal’s help.
According to Minnesota’s Council on Disability, this law will help.
“Misrepresenting an animal as a service animal jeopardizes the independence and safety of people with disabilities. It also puts highly trained, expensive, and necessary service animals at risk of injury or death," said Minnesota's council on Diversity via email.
Under the new law, businesses are allowed to put up signs that have language saying all service animals are welcome but notes that brining in a fake animal is against the law.
But how do businesses spot a false service animal without being discriminatory?
Currently, under the American Disabilities Act, businesses have the right to ask two questions if they are suspicious a person is wrongfully identifying his or her pet as a service animal to get a type of privilege.
They can ask:
• Is the service animal required because of a disability?
• What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
Businesses are not allowed to ask what a person’s disability is or ask for a demonstration from the service animal.
The new law uses the federal government’s definition of a service animal which means a dog. If a person claims a bird or cat is a service animal, this could be the first tip that a crime is being committed.
It is a petty misdemeanor the first time a person is caught lying about a service animal. It is a misdemeanor for every subsequent offense, which could mean a fine or light jail time.
To learn more about new Minnesota laws going into effect, click here.