JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville city councilman and K9s for Warriors CEO Rory Diamond is proposing a bill that would make having a fake service dog a second-degree misdemeanor in the city.
If passed, the legislation, tabbed the “Fake Service Dog Law,” would mean those found guilty would need to complete 30 hours of community service.
The bill would also create legal protections against discrimination for owners of service dogs living with disabilities in Jacksonville.
“It makes it illegal to lie and say that your pet is a service dog,” Diamond told Action News Jax. “Also, we create an entire scheme to protect people who have service dogs that are real.”
The protections against discrimination would apply to legitimate service dog owners with disabilities when renting, applying for a job and matters of public access.
“… An individual with a disability who has a service animal or who obtains a service animal is entitled to full and equal access to all housing accommodations provided for in this section, and such a person may not be required to pay extra compensation for such animal,” the bill states, in part.
Greg Wells is an Army Veteran and was diagnosed with PTSD in 2012. He now trains service dogs at K9s for Warriors.
Wells says the legislation proposed by Diamond would help those with disabilities have their discrimination claims heard, and action taken, sooner. He says local action would be more efficient compared to federal claims through the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“If this legislation is passed, and I am discriminated against, I can file a complaint with someone local, and there can be action taken on a local level,” Wells said.
“So, it rides right along with the Americans with Disabilities Act, so they complement each other,” Diamond said.
Wells described life with his service dog.
“It’s freedom,” Wells said. “Before I had him, I didn’t go do things. I wouldn’t go to the store to pick things up. I wouldn’t go out to eat with the family. He’s given me the freedom to do that.”
He says vests and leashes for service dogs are often bought by people online.
“You can put it on your dog and walk outside, and there you go,” Wells said. “You can claim it as a service dog all day. It doesn’t make it true.”
Wells tells us fake service dogs can give the wrong impression of how service dogs should behave in public.
“You may go into a restaurant, and see somebody with their ‘service dog,’ sitting on the chair next to them eating at the table. We don’t allow that with a legitimate service dog,” Wells said. “A legitimate service dog is to be unobtrusive, out of the way, barely noticeable. So, I can live a normal lifestyle and not feel that people are staring at me.”
According to city records, the bill was introduced to city council on Oct. 13, and as of Oct. 27, was in committee.
You can find the complete text of the proposed legislation below.
Cox Media Group