New law cracks down on service animals Jan. 1

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Several new laws will go into effect at midnight.

One cracks down on service animals. 

People misrepresenting their furry friends as service animals has become a growing problem over the years.

“Based on the calls I get, only about one in every 10 people that call and want a service dog, actually need a service dog,” said Erica McRell, head trainer for Off Leash K9 training Hawaii.

Legislators says it’s resulted in legitimate service dogs being distracted or even attacked. 

“It’s gotten to the point where it’s ridiculous,” McRell said.

Her company has stopped training service dogs because it became too hard to track certain cases.

“When you ask, ‘What do you need a service dog for?’ ‘Well I want to take my dog to Walmart with me,’ or ‘My dog barks at home and my neighbors complain, so I need to take him everywhere with me.'”

“That’s not a disability, that’s you should train your dog,” McRell said. 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Companion, comfort or emotional support animals are not covered by the ADA.

McRell hopes Hawaii’s new long will make people think twice before bringing their misrepresented animal into a public place. 

Starting Jan. 1, anyone who misrepresents their pets can be fined between $100 and $250 for their first violation. People can be fined $500 or more for a second violation and each thereafter.  

However, the internet has made it easy for people to think their dog is a service dog. Thousands of websites will send you a vest and certification, but none of it is needed. There is no registration for service animals. 

The only piece of paper someone needs is from a doctor stating the person’s disability a trained dog.

Airlines and other companies also starting to crack down.

“They’re requiring more information, more in depth medical prescriptions,” McRell said. 

And even the prescription from doctors has changed.

“Earlier this year, a new standardized form went out to all doctors and psychiatrists specifying what the form has to look like in order to have the prescription,” she said. 

More than 3 dozen states have a similar law in place.
 

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