In Colorado It's Now Illegal to Misrepresent a Pet as a Service Animal

Posted by Paige Cerulli

A new law in Colorado makes it illegal to misrepresent a pet as a service animal, tackling the spreading issue of fake service animals. 

Fake service animals are becoming a real issue. Increasingly, people have begun to misrepresent pets as service animals to gain access to public places where pets cannot traditionally go. This issue is aggravated by the presence of online services where you can buy fake service animal gear, including vests and certificates. But a new law in Colorado seeks to change all that.

The law, which went into effect on January 1, 2017, now makes it illegal to misrepresent a pet as a service animal. The first offense will earn you a warning, but subsequent offenses can bring fines ranging from $50 to $500.

Seeing Eye Dog/Guide Dog for the Blind

Service animals undergo specialized training in order to perform specific actions to help their owners. Service dogs and even service horses are frequently used today, and can perform tasks including alerting diabetics to blood sugar fluctuations, alerting people with epilepsy to oncoming seizures, and fetching items like the phone. Service animals are trained on how to behave in public situations, and they know not to jump up on people, bark, or otherwise be disruptive.

But when people misrepresent pets as service animals, they're creating a potentially dangerous situation. These pets haven't received the rigorous training that true service animals have, and may behave inappropriately in public. The situation gets more complicated when a pet and a true service animal meet. If the fake service animal's inappropriate behavior distracts the pet performing a true service, this could put the handler at risk because their pet is not focusing on their needs.

Fake service animals give real service animals a bad rap. If people see a fake service animal behaving poorly, they may be less tolerant of real service animals in the future.

Colorado's law is a step forward in regulating the issue of fake service dogs. Perhaps other states will follow their lead?

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