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California may crack down on fake service dogs

California lawmakers may crack down on people who are fraudulently passing off their pets as service dogs.
February 24, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
California may crack down on people who are fraudulently passing off their pets as service dogs. The goal is to protect disabled people who legitimately need their canine companions.

The problem is that many people are saying their animals are service dogs in order to take them everywhere they go. Online websites are also adding to the problem, offering quick steps to access a service dog vest or identification tag with little proof of having a disability.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing has received thousands of complaints regarding service companion animals. It says the lack of clarity on who should be issued a service dog license is a huge problem for businesses.

"It's very, very difficult for business owners because they're not able to actually inquire very much about a person's disability, what the animal is capable of doing," said Phyllis W. Cheng, director of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

As more and more people claim their dog is a service animal, the people who do depend on their dogs are facing new challenges.

"Business owners...housing providers and so forth begin to doubt every person who has an assistive animal. Then that works against the entire purpose of the law," said Cheng.

Lying about your pet being a service dog is a misdemeanor. Lawmakers will be exploring the issue, including asking the state boards to review the process for authorizing use of service dogs.


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