Ledbetter’s bill to help stop service dog fraud gains key support
State Rep. Cindy Ledbetter (R-Newburgh) authored legislation to address a growing trend where people falsely claim their pets as service animals to take them to public spaces like movie theaters and restaurants.
House Bill 1102 unanimously cleared the House Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development Monday and now moves to the full House of Representatives for consideration. Under the bill, animals could be removed from public areas if they are not harnessed, as well as if they are out of control or not housebroken. If signed into law, Indiana would join 33 other states with a law on the books about fraudulent service animals.
“Thousands of Hoosiers depend on service animals, and these are highly trained animals with a job and I don’t want to take away from that,” Ledbetter said. “However, local business owners have expressed concerns about the rise in service dog fraud, and their lack of ability to do anything about it. With my legislation, I want to give business owners the confidence to ask someone to leave the premises when it’s clear the animal is a nuisance. If someone is bitten or harmed on their premises, they are the ones who could face litigation so they deserve to be able to address this type of issue before someone gets hurt.”
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal includes any guide dog, signal dog, or another animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. Under the ADA and Indiana law, people with disabilities may bring their service animals to all public accommodations, including restaurants, stores, and workplaces, but they must be harnessed, leashed or tethered unless the device interferes with the animal’s work. The ADA nor state law recognizes “emotional support animals.”
House Bill 1102 would also prohibit asking about the nature or extent of someone’s disability or asking for documentation, but inquiries could be made about whether the service animal is required because of a disability and what task the animal has been trained to perform. An operator of public accommodation would also not be allowed to charge a fee for a service animal and a Hoosier accompanied by a service animal would be allowed in all areas of the public space that anyone else is allowed to go.
“Well-behaved, well-trained service animals should not be unfairly turned away, but we do need to address those who fraudulently present pets as service animals,” Ledbetter said. “These dishonest people are disrespecting Hoosiers with disabilities who rely on service animals daily.”
There are more than 22,000 guide dogs and service dogs in the United States, according to Assistance Dogs International, helping individuals with difficulties hearing, seeing, walking, and learning. Ledbetter said these animals can often do life-saving work, such as responding to a seizure in someone who has epilepsy or reminding someone with a memory condition to take their medication.
To learn more and watch legislative proceedings, visit iga.in.gov.