HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - A bill being considered by lawmakers would make it a crime in Connecticut to misrepresent an animal as a service animal.
Those in favor of the bill argue that some people have been pretending their animals are service animals to obtain the special treatment of people with legitimate disabilities.
According to the bill, in order for an animal like a dog to be a service dog, it would have to be trained to be one.
"No person shall misrepresent a pet dog as a service dog or service dog in training for the purpose of obtaining any rights or privileges afforded persons with disabilities who are accompanied by service dogs," the proposal states.
Republican State Rep. Fred Camillo introduced one of the bills.
"I think it’s federal law if you don’t have your papers you don’t have to they ask for them you don’t have to show them. There’s no consequence. So I think we’re going to have to address it on the federal level as well," Camillo said.
Anyone who violates it by falsely claiming otherwise or outfitting the animal with a fraudulent special cape, vest or leash could be subject to an infraction and a $90 fine.
Bill DeMayo, superintendent of Newington Parks & Recreation Dept., has a service dog and is the president of the Americans with Disabilities Act Coalition of CT.
He said fake service animals have negatively impacted people who truly need real service dogs.
"If I’m going up and down stairs and he gets harassed by a dog that’s not well trained then that’s a problem because then my safety is in jeopardy because I’ll turn away and I may fall down the stairs," DeMayo said.
DeMayo and Isaac, his guide dog, have been together for seven-and-a-half years.
The German Shepherd is a Fidelco Guide Dog with two years of training that cost $46,000.
"When this guy’s in his harness, he is supposed to ignore all animals all people all distractions. He has to focus strictly on my safety, so what happens is these fake service dogs take away from people with disabilities safety and that’s where it’s an issue," DeMayo said.
That's why state lawmakers are talking about fining people $150 for misrepresenting their animals as service animals.
If approved, the law would go into effect on July 1, 2019.