- Associated Press - Thursday, June 27, 2019

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island lawmakers have approved a bill that would prohibit people from falsely claiming their pets are service animals.

The bill, passed Wednesday, defines a service animal as a dog specifically trained to help individuals with disabilities. If it’s signed by Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, violators could be fined and required to perform community service.

Raimondo’s spokesman says the governor hasn’t reviewed the bill’s specifics yet, but supports the intent.

Lawmakers have expressed concerns about pet owners increasingly putting vests on their dogs to bring them into restaurants and other places only service dogs are allowed.

Democratic Rep. Bernard Hawkins, of Smithfield, says misrepresenting regular pets as service animals is unfair to people with actual disabilities.

He says the behavior defrauds legitimate service dog users and the organizations that work with them.

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