Proposed Legislation Aims To Punish Individuals Falsifying Service Animal Status

Misrepresenting an animal as a service animal would result in a $500 penalty for the first offense, according to SB 219.

A new legislation in Delaware aims to crack down on residents who falsely claim their pets as service or assistance animals.

Sponsored by Senator Dave Lawson of Marydel and Representative Danny Short of Seaford, Senate Bill 219 aims to establish penalties for the misrepresentation of a service animal under the Delaware Equal Accommodations Law and the misrepresentation of an assistance animal under the Delaware Fair Housing Act.

Violators will face a civil penalty of $500 for the first offense, and any subsequent offenses will be considered unclassified misdemeanors.

According to the bill, an individual found guilty of misrepresentation is someone who:

    • Misrepresents that the person has a disability for which the animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for.
    • Misrepresents an animal as a service animal by fitting an animal that is not a service animal with an item that states that it is a service animal, such as a harness, collar, vest or sign.

“Service animals should be acknowledged and given the rights that come with their important role,” Lawson emphasized. “It is crucial to address the problem of falsely classifying animals as service or assistance animals, which has been happening for far too long.”

According to Short, state law guarantees that individuals in need of service animals are protected against discrimination when it comes to finding housing.

According to him, this proposal aims to tackle fraud and the misuse of this law. Its goal is to safeguard landlords from being exploited while also upholding the legal rights of service animal owners, ensuring that they are not discredited or undermined.

The Senate Banking, Business, Insurance, and Technology Committee will be the first to hear SB 219.

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MBS Staff
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