Service-dog laws in Arizona

service dogs

Photo courtesy of Canine Companions for Independence

There’s a new bill going through the Arizona Legislature to tighten the leash on people who try to pass their dogs off as service dogs.

Which I admit, I have been greatly tempted to do.

Like most of us, I like spending time with the dog and want to take her with me to grocery stores or Starbucks (although there is a pretty extensive list of dog-friendly places in Phoenix). Most of all, I would love her comforting presence when I fly. I’d gladly pay for her to sit with me on the plane (only domestic, of course –hey, not made of money here).

Why I don’t pass off my dog as a service dog

But I have talked with enough people who have trained dogs for people with disabilities, to realize that my poorly trained Beagle could give real service dogs a bad name. And “real’’ service dogs are true heroes – they can do everything from help people with hearing losses know if there is a knock on the door to alert people with neurological problems of potential seizures.

Apparently, there are others who are passing their dog off as a trained service dogs and now, a Fountain Hills legislator wants to rein them in.

Service-dog legislation

Sen. John Kavanagh wants judges to impose fines of up to $250 on anyone who fraudulently misrepresents an animal as a service animal or service animal in training to operators of businesses, public recreation sites, buses, taxis and ambulances.

Under SB 1040, a business owner can file a complaint if they feel someone has brought in a fake service dog. The dog owner would have to prove otherwise. Kavanagh is no stranger to dog issues – he was a guiding force behind last year’s legislation to help dogs trapped in hot cars.

“It’s amazing that you can’t get a placard to park your car in a disabled spot unless a doctor certifies that you’re disabled.

“But, pretty much, today everybody can walk around and buy vests (for their animals) on the internet and claim non-trained animals are service animals. It makes no sense to me,” he told KJZZ.

The other side of service dog

Attorneys for the Arizona Center for Disability Law, which represents people with disabilities, said Kavanagh is trying to solve a non-existent problem.

Arizona law already gives businesses the right to eject any animal — including a service animal — if it misbehaves, is not housebroken, poses an “undue burden” or “poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others,” say center attorneys.

Arizona isn’t the only state looking at this: At least 19 others have cracked down on fraudulent service dogs. Massachusetts is now considering a similar proposal to Arizona’s.

What do you think?

For dog lovers, this is interesting stuff. We love our dogs and always want them nearby. Yet, we, more than others, understand how much a dog could mean to someone who faces really tough challenges every day.

If you have any thoughts, pass them along to your legislator.

 

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