ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) – Misrepresenting service animals has become a growing concern in recent years.
It prompted the state legislature to pass a new law and Olmsted County officials are making sure people are aware of the changes.
The new law went into effect back on August 1st of 2018, making it illegal to misrepresent a service animal in public buildings.
In an effort to be pro-active about notifying the public, Olmsted County posted signs outside each of it’s county buildings.
Each sign reads “Service animals are welcome, however it is illegal for you to misrepresent your animal to obtain any special rights or privileges knowing that you are not entitled to those rights or privileges.”
The most common issue is small dogs misrepresented as a service animal.
“They might be conveyed as emotional support animals or therapy animals or something like that, but they don’t meet the statute requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Mat Miller, Olmsted County’s Facilities and Building Operations Director. “Most service animals are trained to do a specific task, so you’ll find that service dogs are trained to detect someone that’s having a medical emergency or to get something from the refrigerator for them.”
County officials will ask two questions if there’s concern about an animal:
- Is the service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the service animal been trained to perform?
Unsatisfactory responses to those questions could result in county officials telling the owner to remove the animal.
That person could also be cited with a petty misdemeanor.