New law prohibits misrepresentation of service animals


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a bill into law Monday that prevents pet owners from misrepresenting pets as service animals.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Roger Picard and Rep. Bernard Hawkins, makes it a civil infraction to misrepresent a pet as a service animal to gain access to rights or privileges reserved for disabled individuals with service animals.

“Misrepresenting a service animal defrauds actual service dog users, and businesses and agencies that work with people who employ service dogs,” Hawkins said.

The legislation defines service animals as – “dogs that have been or are being specifically trained to assist an individual with a disability, including guide dogs and hearing dogs.”

Pet owners who violate this law could face up to 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves disabled people.

“This bill is meant as a deterrent to discourage people from abusing service animal laws,” Picard said.

The legislation also says that businesses may post a sign in a front window or door stating that service animals are welcome and that misrepresentation of a service animal is a violation of state law.

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