SPOKANE, Wash. – Washington state lawmakers are considering a bill that cracks down on the problems that surround service animals.
The bill includes a hefty fine and adopting the federal ADA definition of a service animal. Under House Bill 2822, the definition of a service animal would include specially trained dogs and some miniature horses.
There is a bit of confusion about what can and cannot be done when there is an animal in a store, especially if you are unsure if it is a service animal, but the bill helps clarify that. It gives the owner of a public accommodation, meaning a store manager or the person in charge of an establishment, grounds to approach someone if their animal does not appear to be a trained service animal.
The bill says, if a person's disability or the work performed by the service animal is not obvious, an enforcement officer or store manager can ask only two questions to determine if the animal is being misrepresented as a service animal: "Is the dog a service animal because of a disability?" and "What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?" They cannot ask the about the person's disability or to see medical documentations, a special identification card or training.
If the person refuses to answer those two questions, appears to represent their animal as a service animal or if they know their dog does not meet the definition of a service animal, an officer can issue a citation with a maximum penalty of $500.
Bill sponsor Representative Mike Steel said this law would be enforced by reporting. For example, if you are at a grocery store and see an animal that does not appear to be a service animal, you would report that to the store manager, or whoever is in charge of the establishment.
The bill passed unanimously through the House, and passed in the Senate Law and Justice committee Thursday. If passed into law, this misrepresentation of service animals bill would be effective January 1, 2019.