Dog Bites Involving Fake Service and “Therapy” Dogs
Under state and federal laws, service dogs may accompany their owners to any public accommodation. This includes restaurants, grocery stores, movie theaters, motels, businesses, schools, parks, gyms, and stadiums. These laws also apply to public transportation, depots, terminals and stations. However, some owners pass off animals as service animals that do not actually meet the criteria.
What Is the Definition of a Service Animal?
Under the law, a service animal is “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability . . .,” as stated in the Federal Register. For example, these tasks may include:
- Guiding an individual with impaired vision
- Alerting a person with impaired hearing to sounds or intruders
- Pulling a wheelchair
- Retrieving dropped items or fetching medications
- Providing stability for someone with mobility issues
- Alerting a person to allergens
- Assisting and protecting an individual during a seizure
What Animals Do Not Qualify As Service Animals?
Only animals trained to perform disability-related tasks or work for a person with a disability qualify as service animals. This category does not include therapy dogs or emotional support animals that provide companionship and a sense of safety and comfort to people with emotional problems. Although these animals may provide support for their owners, they are not trained to perform specific tasks and, therefore, do not qualify as service animals. Neither are pets included in the service animal category.
What Are the Risks of Bites From Fake Service Dogs and Therapy Dogs?
Any public or private place of business, office, or place of recreation to which the general public is invited, and all forms of transportation are subject to Arizona service animal laws. Establishments may not ask a person with a service animal any questions about the person’s disability or demand to see any written proof of the animal’s status as a service animal. Consequently, some people fraudulently bring animals to public places, claiming they are service dogs when they actually are not. Fake service dogs have been known to attack and injure innocent children and adults.
What Can Business Owners Do to Ensure a Service Dog Is Legitimate?
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Arizona law, business owners can exclude service animals if they:
- Pose a direct threat to health and safety
- Are out of control, with a handler who in unable or unwilling to control the animal
- Pose an undue burden on the establishment
- Fundamentally alter the nature of the establishment or the goods or services it provides
If a business owner observes aggressive behavior in a proclaimed service animal or lack of control on the part of the handler, legally, that animal can be excluded from the premises. House Bill 2588 was recently passed in Arizona, making it illegal to misrepresent an unqualified animal as a service animal, and imposing a fine of up to $250 for each violation. However, business owners are still not allowed to ask patrons to provide proof of the status of an animal as a service animal.
What Can You Do If You Believe You Have Been Bitten By a Fake Service Dog or Therapy Dog?
If you have been attacked by a dog that was allowed into a public place as a service dog, but you do not believe that status is legitimate, speak with a Phoenix dog bite injury attorney as soon as possible. We can investigate the incident to determine fault and liability and represent you in a claim for compensation against the responsible parties.
We offer a free consultation and work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you pay us no fees until we win a recovery for you. For dedicated advocacy from an award winning injury law firm, call The Husband & Wife Law Team at (602) 457-6222.
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During a free consultation, we will look at the important aspects of your case, answer your questions, and explain your legal rights and options clearly. All submissions are confidentially reviewed by Mark Breyer.
Confidentially reviewed by Attorney Mark Breyer