- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Human rights advocates in Washington and Idaho say people may be trying to pass pets off as service animals.

State law does not specify how to prove dogs are qualified for the task, and anyone can buy a service animal vest online, the Spokesman-Review reported (https://bit.ly/1MUAXsR).

Idaho Human Rights Commission administrator Linda Goodman says people are pushing the boundaries on service dog definitions under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I think there’s some confusion on the part of some individuals who may be wanting to stretch the definition to include other kinds of pets or companion animals,” Goodman said.

She said the ADA allows people to ask if a dog is a service animal required because of a disability. People can also legally ask what work or task the dog has been trained to perform.

“It’s just two questions,” Goodman said. “It’s not hard to remember.”

Washington Human Rights Commission policy analyst Laura Lindstrand says people are often worried about asking a question that would violate the ADA.

“A lot of businesses don’t know the law, they don’t know what questions they can ask, and they haven’t trained their employees in that area, so they’re very nervous,” Lindstrand said. “And especially with people who have fake service animals, the people will start saying, ‘You can’t ask me that question, I’m going to sue you,’ and then they get frightened because they’re being threatened.”

Florida recently passed a law making it a misdemeanor to try and pass pets off as service dogs.

“It would certainly make my job easier if there was a certification process,” Lindstrand said. “If we could figure out a way to fund it without it being a detriment to persons with disabilities, it certainly sounds like a good idea.”

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, https://www.spokesman.com


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