Illinois bill would fine people for using fake service dogs

Misrepresenting a dog as trained a service dog could soon come with a hefty fine under the terms of a new proposal in Springfield.

House Bill 3905 would require a person to have their dog professionally trained to wear anything indicating the animal is a service dog or be brought into any business that only allows service animals.

The second time someone is found to have misrepresented their pet as a service animal, they could be fined hundreds of dollars.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, told the House Judiciary Criminal Committee that this practice can be dangerous.

“When you have a misrepresentation of a dog that is represented as a service dog, that’s a public nuisance and could cause harm to the public,” he said.

The Department of Transportation is proposing a crackdown on people who misrepresent their pets as service or emotional support animals to allow them on flights.

The bill is an initiative of one of Ford’s constituents who trains service dogs.

State Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, R-Naperville, opposed the bill. She some dogs are “comfort animals” that are partly-trained.

“People have access to animals that are functioning in their lives as service dogs,” she said, adding that a formally-trained dog could cost too much for some people to afford the help. This, she said, would put them at risk of being fined. “We’re now narrowing the definition of a service dog to be a very specific training program that a dog has to go through.”

The bill passed from committee, but it was contingent on if Ford changed it to reduce the up to $1,000 fine. It was updated to a maximum of $500. The fines would go toward a fund that would offer grants to help low-income people afford the cost of service dog training.

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