New bill targets fake service dogs

Many people in Hawaii own a pet and dog lovers may want to take their four-legged friend wherever they go.

But according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, only service animals can enter restaurants, grocery stores, and shops where other pets are not allowed.

Still, some have found it’s an easy law to break.

“Exploitation that’s pure and simple what it is,” said Rep. Angus McKelvey (D) West Maui, North Kihei.

Rep. McKelvey has introduced a bill at the State Capitol to stop the abuse.

“Really disturbing and de-legitimizes real service dogs. And when you have situations like this when real service dogs are injured by an illegitimate,” Rep. McKelvey said.

He says in one instance, an untrained dog wearing a service badge badly mauled a legitimate service dog.

Non-disabled individuals can purchase false service dog IDs on the internet for as little as $20.

It’s not illegal, but some say it’s unethical.

“It’s like getting fake disabled parking sticker to park in handicap stall. The laws are there for people who really need it,” Assistance Dogs of Hawaii Executive Director Mo Maurer said.

The bill would require a service dog to wear a badge or vest approved by a national organization that identifies the animal as a service dog.

“The intent is meritorious. We know the federal laws say you can’t do that,” said Francine Wai, Disability and Communication Access Board.

But even those in support of cracking down say the bill needs to be re-worked because federal ADA law says an establishment cannot require an owner to show an animals license as a service dog for entry.

“You could criminalize falsely presenting a service dog. That’s one approach you could take I suppose,” said Louis Erteschik, Hawaii Disability Rights Center.

The House Judiciary Committee agreed and passed the bill with amendments, tacking on a fine of $1,000 for anyone falsely identifying a pet as a service dog.

KHON2 will follow this bill as it moves forward.

A similar measure was also introduced at the State Capitol that would establish a fine of $100 or six months in prison for violators. That one is still awaiting a hearing.

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