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Arizona Senator proposes a fine for people claiming fake service pets

Posted at 10:16 PM, Dec 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-27 17:54:30-05

A Valley lawmaker wants people to pay up if they're caught passing their regular pets off as service animals in public places.  

In SB 1040, District 23 Senator John Kavanagh proposes charging pet owners up to $250 if they're caught doing this.

But some disability advocates worry that this may cause more problems, and more misunderstandings. 

"You're going to have someone interrogated by a business owner and ultimately, the police will be called," explained Sarah Kader, an attorney with the Arizona Center for Disability Law. "You might have a veteran with a mental illness and the police are being called and he's being interrogated in public, and it could be a really awful situation."

Under current federal law, business owners are only allowed to ask people with service animals two questions:

1. Is your animal a service animal that's required for your disability? 

2. What task or work has your service animal been trained to do? 

Business owners cannot ask people for proof that their animals are in fact service animals. Business owners are also not allowed to force owners to demonstrate their skills. 

Did you know this? Business owners are allowed to ask people to leave if their service animal is behaving in a threatening way, going to the bathroom inside the establishment, or causing an unnecessary distraction for other patrons.

The next legislative session begins January 8, which is when we'll find out more about the future of this bill. 

ABC15 spoke with Sen. John Kavanagh over the phone Wednesday about people posing their pets as service animals, something he says has become a problem.

"Amazingly, you can tell that lie and there is no violation," explains Sen Kavanagh. "It's not the end of the world to bring your chihuahua into a restaurant, but people should certainly be deterred from doing so."

Despite what some disability advocates have said, Sen. Kavanagh does not believe this bill would have a negative impact on those with legitimate service animals.