Michigan bill aims to reduce fraudulent service dog use

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LANSING, Mich. -- A bill in the Michigan Senate could help clear things up when it comes to pets and which ones qualify as service animals.

Senate Bill 663 is an attempt by Sen. Peter MacGregor of Rockford to set the record straight about what constitutes a service dog in Michigan.

"Under this legislation, in order to have an emotional support animal, one would need only to obtain a doctor’s note stating the animal assists in day-to-day activities that the individual would otherwise not be able to do," Sen. MacGregor said. "The goal of this legislation is to maintain the integrity of these very important service animals for those who truly need them."

It's a subject that's close to the hearts of those with Paws With a Cause. The organization, which specializes in trained service dogs, says it's a move in the right direction but could go a step further.

"Something we would like to see further clarified in the bill is the definition between emotional support animal and a service dog," said Deb Davis with Paws With a Cause.  "A service animal is a dog and only a dog that specifically trained to mitigate a person's disability. It's custom trained specifically for that individual."

Davis adds that emotional support animals provided "comfort and support" to people but do not have that training.  She says only service dogs are guaranteed access to all public places.

"There's so much ambiguity and so much confusion," Davis said. "Emotional support animals do not have public access rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act.  So while Senate Bill 663 has its strengths and great steps forward, it’s not going to supersede the ADA which is already there."

Under the bill, anyone who knowingly presents a dog as a support or service animal that really is not could be charged with a misdemeanor and serve up to 90 days in jail and get a fine of up to $500.

"Senate Bill 663 is taking a step in the right direction and Paws With a Cause is happy to work with Sen. MacGregor’s office for more clarification and to make sure the bill can do as most as it can," Davis said.

Davis says what a dog is wearing can be a way to tell if it's a genuine service dog. For example, animals from their organization hae things like jackets and backpacks that denote their dogs as certified.

Sen. MacGregor encourages anyone with questions about the bill to contact his office. 

 

 

 

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5 comments

    • PTSD SD Handler

      There are other Valid SDs for wheelchair, mobility, autism and PTSD disabled person she. There is no such thing as psychiatric SDs, these are emotional support animals, therapy dogs and comfort dogs. With the exception of of PTSD and Autism is the ONLY psychiatric disability that recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act that qualifies for a service dog that a trained PTSD or autistic service dog. Keep in mind the ESA/Comfort/Therapy Aka Psychiatric Dog is Not a SD and dose not have public access rights!

  • Donna Kosner

    This is a start and I am happy states are starting to work on this problem. We need to shut down these on line places that sell vests. Part of the problem is doctors not wanting to say no to their patients. so they write notes saying a patient needs the dog without thinking of whether a dog will help them. I do voicemail and get calls that their doctor wrote them a note so they can get their dog into their apartment or take it on vacation. I am not sure they realize they are putting the public at risk. We have had untrained emotional support dogs bite our service dogs. An untrained dog can bite a child or another individual and there is a risk it could be euthanized. Not all dogs enjoy being in public all the time and a stressed dog is more likely to bite..

    Bob you are incorrect. We train dogs for people in wheelchairs or with mobility issues and the dogs can help them become independent. Sight dogs are wonderful, but dogs can help with many different disabilities. To be a service dog there needs to be a documented disability and the dog needs to perform tasks related to that disability. Dogs can do hearing work, medical alert for diabetes, seizures, fainting spells, etc. They can be trained to get help in an emergency. A properly trained dog can be life changing.

  • Susan Blais

    I’m fortunate to not only live in Michigan but have the ability to live almost independently with the help of my 2 Service Dogs. Mine have been Registered with the Sate of Michigan under its Voluntary Program which has tremendous benefits! Online Companies literally sell the entire SD Kit for around 120.00 which has a 3 day waiting period as a “Dr” makes a call to the person requesting vest/certification from Online Company and voila you get your “kit” in the mail with a “certified” Dr’s note also. Some people actually paid the money and 1 person registered their pet Canary as a Service Animal! At the very bottom of Certificate on back page in tiniest of writing buried deep within a bunch of addresses etc was the disclaimer that it’s NOT a Legal Document!! Sadly, these innocent people are being scammed out of their cash believing the sites. The ADA is so loose on “verification” requiring only 2 questions asked and how easy the “disability questions” can be stretched to fit. Michigan has your Physician to fill out their portion, you fill out other portion..Submit passport photo and receive a plastic ID card, embroidered patch. Plus, no dog license fees with State of Michigan ID Badge! Quite a few SD Handlers oppose this because they feel their Dr doesn’t think they’re disabled enough for a Service Dog but under “their” interpretation they qualify. These people also want just a Public Access Test for their dog only and NOTHING from treating Dr for Disability. If you’re disabled enough to require an SD to help mitigate your disability then your Dr should have no issues. Plus some don’t see their Dr for 2 yrs!!