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    New bill could penalize those lying about service animal

    By Jarek Rutz,


    SB 219 would penalize those who misrepresent an animal as a service animal $500 on the first offense. (Photo by 24K-Production/iStock Getty Images)

    A proposed law in Delaware would punish residents who lie about their animal being a service or assistance animal.

    Sponsored by Sen. Dave Lawson, R- Marydel, and Rep. Danny Short, R-Seaford, Senate Bill 219 would create penalties for misrepresentation of a service animal under the Delaware Equal Accommodations Law and misrepresentation of an assistance animal under the Delaware Fair Housing Act.

    A first violation would be a civil penalty in the amount of $500 and each subsequent offense is an unclassified misdemeanor.

    The bill defines a person guilty of misrepresentation as anyone that:

    • 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 deserve proper recognition for the work that they do and should receive all liberties that accompany that designation,” Lawson said. “This bill will address the issue of false service/assistance animal classification that has gone on or far too long.”

    Short pointed out that state law ensures that people needing service animals are not discriminated against when it comes to finding a place to live.

    “This proposal seeks to crack down on those engaging in fraud and misusing this law,” he said.  It’ll protect landlords from being taken advantage of and preserve the legal rights of service animal owners from being discredited and undermined.”

    SB 219 will first be heard in the Senate Banking, Business, Insurance and Technology Committee.

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