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A Florida bill in final committee would impose fines and possible jail time for dog owners who claim their dog is a service animal without proof.
The bill, House Bill 71 (HB 71), has cleared three committees with unanimous votes and is headed for final committee hearings before going to the floor for a vote.
The bill defines an "individual with a disability" as being someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activity (caring for one's self, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, etc). The bill also defines a mental impairment as a psychological disorder or condition that affects at least one bodily function or a mental or psychological disorder listed in the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
HB 71 then defines a service animal as dogs and miniature horses only, and allows business owners and caretakers of public places to remove the animal if it is not under the owner's control, is not housebroken, or poses a threat to others. Service animal owners can be asked what service the animal performs, though they cannot be asked what their disability might be.
Finally, interfering with the disabled and their service animals or for pet owners who lie about having a disability and falsely claim that their pet is a service animal can be guilty of a second degree misdemeanor and can be sentenced to up to 60 days in jail, fined up to $500 and must also perform 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves people with disabilities or another entity, at the discretion of a judge.
A similar bill is in the Florida senate, SB 414, but has not yet made it out of its first committee. See HB 71 here.
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