New Year Ushers in New Fake Service Dog Law For Hawaii

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
The new year always brings in new laws for various states in America, and in a few, there are now stiffer penalties for those who misrepresent their pet as a service animal.

Hawaii will join several states with laws against representing pets as service animals in 2019, with violators facing fines that range from $100-$500. Already, 21 other states in America have some sort of law that governs what qualifies a service dog and where they are welcomed.

More and more websites offer the option for people to purchase vests, patches and ID tags that may deem them as ‘service’ dogs in the eyes of the general public around them, even though they have no or little official training or certification from accredited service training organizations.

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This can cause problems for pets that are not actually trained for situations their owners put them in in public places like grocery stores, theaters, and airlines. In fact, airlines are enacting stricter regulations as well when it comes to service animals flying.

Many who use service dogs say they hope the law will help prohibit those who take advantage of the rights and access granted to service dogs as they help their humans. Businesses will now be able to question the validity of the certification of service dogs, and this will ensure that only trained service dogs assisting their humans use those opportunities.

Jim Kennedy is the executive director of Hawaii Fi-Do Service Dogs. He says that when people carry their ‘service’ dogs around in grocery carts or baby carriages, that’s a pretty good sign that the dog is not a service dog because it’s awfully hard for them to help their human with all the things service dogs are taught to do. He’s in favor of regulations, though he says that because there is still no official registration or identifying label that is required for service dogs, the law still may be difficult to enforce.

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Still, Kennedy hopes that the law may be a deterrent to those who would try to pass off their pets as service dogs, even when it comes to ’emotional support’ dogs. Under the American with Disabilities Act (which grants many of the rights to service dogs that they use in helping their humans), emotional support dogs are not considered service animals. Nor are any other animals (with the exception of some miniature horses) but dogs considered service animals under the American with Disabilities Act. No, not even peacocks.

Hawaii does define service animals “as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability,” so there is room for those who suffer from PTSD and other mental health conditions and require trained service dogs.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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