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Proposed fines for fake service dogs in Hawaii becomes law

  • PIXABAY

    Starting Jan. 1, 2019, violators in Hawaii will be fined $100 to $500 for pretending to have a service dog, which can be as simple as going online and ordering a service dog certificate, vest or ID badge, with little to no proof of authenticity.

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A bill that would fine people fraudulently representing their pets as service dogs has become law without Gov. David Ige’s signature.

Senate Bill 2461, introduced by Sen. Russell Ruderman (D-Puna) passed through the Hawaii State Legislature, but was neither signed nor vetoed by the governor on Tuesday.

Starting Jan. 1, 2019, violators would be fined $100 to $500 for pretending to have a service dog, which can be as simple as going online and ordering a service dog certificate, vest or ID badge, with little to no proof of authenticity. There is actually no official U.S. registry for service dogs, nor are service animals required by law to wear special vests, collars or harnesses.

“I’m very happy it passed,” said Ruderman. “I understand some people may have concerns about it because it’s going to be difficult to enforce, but there are 20 other states that have it. Having a law is important.”

When fake service dogs cause problems and nip at other people or at legitimate service dogs, they ruin the welcome of the latter. He added that he had tremendous support for the bill from the disability community.

Ige said in a message delivered to the State Legislature today that enforcement of the civil offense may be problematic due to the lack of an official U.S. registry as well as the limited questions one may ask under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“None of the county police departments submitted testimony,” said Ige in the message. “However, it appears they would be the primary agencies responsible for enforcement. It may be difficult to prove in court by a clear and convincing standard that a person knowingly misrepresented an animal as a service animal. However, it is worth noting that similar legislation is present in at least 15 other states.”

Jim Kennedy, executive director of Hawaii Fi-Do Service Dogs, supported and welcomed the passage of the bill.

“The real work begins now that the bill becomes law,” said Kennedy. “A lot of education needs to be carried out before its effective date of Jan. 1, 2019. We at Hawaii Fi-Do intend to help wherever we can. All of us need to join together to help educate our citizens about what a service dog is.”

“Almost all dogs provide emotional support and calm us down,” he said. “But that alone does not qualify a pet as a ‘service dog.’ It is important to understand and respect what the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) intended when it allowed legitimate service dogs to assist those with real disabilities.”

Kennedy said he believes most people are law-abiding citizens, but that the passage of the new law is the beginning of putting an end to the abuse.

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