By Alan Peters
Effective August 1, 2018, it is illegal to pretend that a pet dog is a service dog in Minnesota. Can Do Canines brought the issue forward in 2017 and the Minnesota legislature voted to institute a new law during the 2018 session. It is now a petty misdemeanor on the first offense and increases to a misdemeanor on a second offense.
Pet dogs do not receive the rigorous training that true service dogs receive. Poorly trained or dangerous imposters are putting the public and legitimate service dogs at risk. Service Dog handlers are regularly confronted about their service dogs access rights. “Fake” Service Dogs contribute to this problem, creating reasons that the public might challenge access for their trained dog.
Dogs that display lack of training and poor behavior while pretending to be a service dog cause people who witness this to become suspicious of all service dogs they see in the future. They give legitimate service dogs a bad name, so to speak. One misbehaved fake service dog can influence dozens, even hundreds of minds on the acceptability of legitimate service dogs
If a Service Dog is trying to perform a skill for their handler but they’re being distracted by a fake service dog that is behaving poorly, the Service Dog could miss a life-saving signal of a low blood sugar event, a seizure approaching, or fail to support their handler’s mobility needs.
Some people may think it is cute to pretend their pet dog is an assistance dog. They may think it is a victimless crime to impersonate a person with a disability. But in reality, pretending you are disabled and pretending your dog is a service dog has far reaching negative consequences for people who actually have disabilities. It is inappropriate and immoral and this new law makes it clearly illegal.
Information on the rational of the new law can be found here.
A detailed description of the actual law is seen here.