State Senator wants to tighten law on service animals

An Arizona lawmaker wants to tighten the leash on service animals.

State Sen. John Kavanaugh wants to make it illegal to misrepresent a dog as a "service animal'', in an effort to bring it into places where pets are not allowed.

The Republican senator for District 23, which covers the Fountain Hills area, said he went to the airport recently and was surprised by the number of so-called service animals in the terminals.

State Sen. Kavanaugh suspects most of them were not legitimate service animals, and he wants to do something about that.

"People discovered they can go on the internet and buy a vest that says 'service animal', and then take their untrained pet, who's not a service animal, anywhere," said State Sen. Kavanaugh. "Onto planes, into restaurants."

State Sen. Kavanaugh's bill would call for a civil penalty of $250 for those caught with an animal they are falsely presenting as a service animal.

"Unfortunately, I discovered there is no law against lying and saying your pet is a service animal in Arizona, and my bill allows us to join the Federal Government and make it illegal to misrepresent an untrained pet as a service animal," said State Sen. Kavanaugh.

Officials with the Arizona Center for Disability Law said the proposal is a bad idea, partly because there is already a law that allows any business owner to remove a disruptive animal from the premises.

Center officials are also concerned a law like this would intimidate people with disabilities, possibly deterring them from going out with their service animal for fear of being questioned or harassed or fined.  

State Sen. Kavanaugh said he expects the law, if passed  will actually help people with service animals.

"This is as much about protecting the disabled community with legitimate service dogs, so they don't get negative effects of these impostors," said State Sen. Kavanaugh.

State Sen. Kavanaugh plans to introduce the bill when the legislature goes back into session on January 8.

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