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Arizona Lawmaker Pushes Bill To Stop Misrepresentation Of Pets As Service Animals

An Arizona lawmaker is once again trying to push a measure that would penalize individuals who misrepresent their pet as a service animal. But some disability advocates say more laws are unnecessary.

Sarah Kader is with the Arizona Center for Disability Law. She has been fighting Republican Senator John Kavanagh’s effort to target those who claim a pet is a service animal when they’re really not.

While she acknowledges that there are a lot of pets in public, Kader said, "We need to educate people about the current laws that already exist and not create a new law. If people don’t know about the current laws, why would a new law help solve the problem?"

According to Senator Kavanagh, it's "because phony service dogs have gone wild. They are all over the place. Unfortunately, there’s nothing illegal today about buying a $20 vest that says 'service animal' and passing off your pet as service animal. It’s legal. And you can’t expect people not to do something just because it’s the right thing. For some people you have to make it illegal."

But Kader argues that all of that is already provided for in current law.

"Comfort animals are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Arizonans with Disabilities Act," Kader said. And she said a business can ask an owner to remove their dog if they’re misbehaving, even if that dog is a service animal.

Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.