Bill to crack down on fake service animals passes state Senate

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Some people with trained service animals support SB 1040. (Source: Katrina Davis-Villagomez) Some people with trained service animals support SB 1040. (Source: Katrina Davis-Villagomez)

A bill that would make it illegal for someone to falsely pose their pet as a service animal has passed the Arizona state Senate Thursday, and now heads to the House for final approval. If it becomes law, it would create a $250 fine against people who misrepresent pets as service animals.

Republican state Sen. John Kavanagh says the measure is necessary to prevent people from bringing pets where they don't belong.

But one of the Vice Presidents of Ability 360, a nonprofit run by and for people with disabilities, disagrees.

"It's really a bill that's looking for a problem to have.  It's nothing that's needed," Darrel Christenson said. "We've had the Americans with Disabilities Act now this summer for 28 years."

Christenson says the proposal calls people out who have legitimate disabilities and service animals, and perpetuates negative stigmas.

Donny Van Gunten owns a service dog to help with his severe, debilitating depression. He gets angry when he sees people who order fake service dog vests for their animals and calls it fraud.

"I had to work hard for those things. It took three long years of training, of learning how to train myself to train my dog, and then go through the testing."

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Politics]

Christenson points out that in Arizona, business owners are already legally allowed to ask a patron to leave if their animal is unruly, whether or not the animal is trained as a service animal. He thinks behavior is a better dividing line on the issue, because legitimate service animals are rarely unruly.

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