Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Impersonating a Person with Disabilities… really???

Almost seems impossible to believe…  doesn’t it??  Why someone would impersonate a disabled person to do something only a person with disabilities has the right to do.  What the heck??  You’re probably thinking I’m making no sense.   Here’s the short version:


  • A dog trainer states that he has a service dog when making reservations for a flight.  When arriving at the airport, he puts a service dog cape on his dog so he can take the dog into the cabin of the airplane.
  • A person keeps a “Service Dog in Training” vest for her dog and if the weather is hot, just puts the vest on the dog and takes it into a store with her so she won’t have to leave it in the car. The dog is not in training to be a service dog.

In both situations, the handler is representing that the dog is or will be a service dog.  Now, if that’s true and the dog really will be a service dog performing tasks for a specific disability, then it’s ok.  If it’s not true, then the handler is:

  1. breaking the law and
  2. doing a disservice to anyone who is disabled and really does need a dog. (not protecting your karma there…. )

So, if you're reading this and are thinking “oh my gosh, I didn’t know it was against the law” …my suggestion would be to not ever do it again.  Why… because if you’re caught, it's a FELONY offense to impersonate a disabled person, AND/OR have your dog impersonate a service dog and punishable by fines and prison time.  There are 2 questions that can be asked of a person with a service dog:

  1. Is that a Service Dog?
  2. What does your Service Dog do for you?

Here is a quote from one of the websites below:

“Being a curious person, I ask the person what the dog does for them, and they tell me nothing, they just answer the questions so they can bring their pet in as a "service dog". I usually alert store management, who alerts store security so the person can't leave, and the police are called, as well as animal control. This person who thought they could get past the law, finds themselves separated from a beloved pet, and themselves in jail, maybe facing a prison term.”

And here are some interesting links:

Several States with penalties:

Missouri:  209.204. Impersonation of person with disability for purpose of receiving service dog accommodations Any person who knowingly impersonates a person with a disability for the purpose of receiving the accommodations regarding service dogs under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. Section 12101, et seq., is guilty of a class C misdemeanor and shall also be civilly liable for the amount of any actual damages resulting from such impersonation. Any second or subsequent violation of this section is a class B misdemeanor. For purposes of this section, "impersonates a person with a disability" means a representation by word or action as a person with a disability or a representation of a dog by word or action as a service dog.  CREDIT(S)  (L.2005, H.B. No. 116, § A, eff. July 12, 2005.)

California: "Section 365.7 of the Penal Code prohibits any person to knowingly and fraudulently representing himself or herself, through verbal or written notice, to be the owner or trainer of any canine licensed as, to be qualified as, or identified as, a guide dog, signal dog, or service dog, as defined in subdivisions (d), (e) and (f) respectively, of Section 365.5 of the Penal Code and paragraph (6) of subdivision (b) of Section 54.1 of the Civil Code, and that a violation of Section 365.7 of the Penal Code is a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine."

Wisconsin Laws state that their laws:

“apply to a service animal trainer only if the animal accompanying the service animal trainer is wearing a harness or a leash and special cape” and  also the law “does not prohibit a service animal trainer from being required to produce a certification or other credential issued by a school for training service animals that the animal is being trained to be a service animal.”

However, regardless of state laws, the ADA prevails as the law of the land and does not limit the activities for which a service animal may be employed and specifically limit what can be asked of the handler.

Food for thought…. huh?

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