There’s been a boom in service animals in the last decade. Dogs, by far, are the most popular, though there have been strange sightings of parrots, pigs, and even turkeys. Now, though, some are questioning the validity of these service animals, and many have decided to crack down on what they see as an obvious abuse of the privilege.
“Twenty-one states have in recent months mounted a major crackdown down on people who falsely claim their pets as service and support animals so they can bring them into restaurants, theaters and other public places where Fido and Fluffy aren’t typically allowed — and the movement has picked up speed in the last few weeks,” NBC writes.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill that makes calling a pet a service animal illegal. The fine is $100. Arizona has a similar law, though their fine is $250.
“I couldn’t go into a store or an airport or even an office without seeing some disorderly four-legged creature dragging its owner around, wearing a vest that said ‘service animal,'” Republican Arizona state Sen. John Kavanagh told NBC News. “I would see people in the supermarkets with animals in the shopping cart or walking around sniffing all the food.”
Andrew Hendrickson, a volunteer who works at a performance venue in Vermont, had a similar complaint. “We’ve had dogs bark through the whole show, sit in the middle of the aisle,” said Hendrickson. He added that one dog tried to “hump the legs of a stranger.”
“It’s kind of hard to question though,” he added. “We have very little grounds on which to challenge a patron who claims the animal as a support.”
At issue is the lack of a clear definition. The Americans with Disabilities Act allows for dogs as service animals, and the public can’t do much about the presence of the animals.
“They can ask only if it is a service animal, and what is it trained to do,” David Favre, a law professor at Michigan State University’s College of Law, explained to NBC.
So what can be done? The new laws are seen as a start. Experts are trying to get the word out, and even suggest that a few high profile examples of violations may be what it takes to get the point across.