We see them everywhere we go in airports, and in stores, service dogs or animals used to help people with disabilities. But the question that many ask is that actually a service animal? We've seen turkeys on planes and most recently an emotional support squirrel.
Spokane city councilman Mike Fagan's proposal uses pretty much the same language as the state's, which allows an enforcement officer to ask the owner if the service animal is required due to a disability. If the handler refuses to answer questions and the animal appears not to be a service animal, the officer then can remove the owner from the property and fine them up to $500.
Councilman Fagan is looking to get tough and crack down on people misrepresenting an animal as a service animal so they could gain the rights and privileges that are associated with service animals "In the case of the City of Spokane, we are looking at it from a civil infraction standpoint, and that fine would start out at its lowest level 50 some odd dollars," said Councilman Fagan.
Councilman Fagan is calling this a "human rights issue" and his proposal would require local public areas to make reasonable accommodations for ADA recognized service animals such as dogs or miniature horses. The ordinance if passed would become part of the city's human rights code. Councilman Fagan says SCRAPS would most likely enforce the ordinance.
Laura Renz is the CEO of the Northwest Service Dog Alliance and says fake service dogs create barriers for people who actually need them to live on their own "Is this a service dog? Am I disabled? A lot of people aren't it's the same as using someone's handicap placard," described Laura Renz.
One of Renz's past service dogs which she had for a year and a half. Was attacked by another dog in a store and now can't work and had to be retired "My last service dog wasn't able to handle that. He's a very expensive pet, and the retailer said that there was nothing they could do," added Renz.
Service dogs like Laura's chocolate lab named "Little One" can cost anywhere between $5,000-$50,000. The service dogs are trained to ignore other dogs and more importantly focus on their handler's needs. In Washington state, there is no requirement or license for a service dog. But only horses and dogs can be service animals.
The ordinance Councilman Fagan says will make people aware that misrepresenting service animals is illegal and will be costly.