Rep. Hawkins’ bill that prohibits misrepresenting pets as service animals passes the House
STATE HOUSE – Legislation (2019-H 5299aa) sponsored by Rep. Bernard A. Hawkins (D-Dist. 53, Smithfield, Glocester) that prohibits the misrepresentation of pets as service animals in order to acquire any rights or privileges afforded to disabled people passed the House of Representatives last week.
“Service animals provide tremendous support and critical services for those that are in need, but when an animal is misrepresented as a service animal, this negatively affects those that are truly in need of service animal support,” said Representative Hawkins.
While the behaviors of pets and service animals are distinguishable, often managers of businesses and agencies they visit have only one means to identify them: the vest they usually wear.
Unfortunately, replicas of these vests are easily available online, leading many people to fraudulently claiming their pets as service animals.
According to the legislation, if a person is found to have misrepresented a pet as a service animal, the person would be guilty of a civil violation, punishable with up to 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves people with disabilities.
“It is fundamentally unfair to people with actual disabilities who need their service animals by their sides at all times for others to misrepresent the same conditions. Misrepresenting a service animal defrauds actual service dog users, and businesses and agencies that work with people who employ service dogs. This legislation protects these parties as well as providing an appropriate punishment for those who try to game the system with fake service animals,” concluded Representative Hawkins.
For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903