Much as I complain about her incessant pursuit of mandatory cursive legislation, I do like the sentiment behind Sen. Leising’s SB 169 concerning service animals. It makes it a Class A infraction for a person to misrepresent that the person “is an individual with a disability or has a disability related need that requires the use of a service animal” or to fit “an animal that is not a service animal with a harness, collar, tag, vest, or sign that would cause a reasonable person to believe the animal is a service animal.” A few years back, I had a case where a guy had paid an organization a few dollars to give him a vest and ID card for his dog that said “emotional support animal.” When my client’s turned him away, saying that service animals were allowed inside and emotional support animals were not, he sued my client, claiming that he was disabled and the dog was, in fact, a service animal. It was surprisingly labor intensive to get the case dismissed. The guy said he had PTSD and made assertions about having trained the dog himself. Under the ADA, no particular credentialing or certification is required. The animal need only have “individualized training” to assist the individual with the individual’s disability. (This means that the training has to have some relation to particulars of the individual’s disability.)
I am concerned about existing legislation, IC 35-46-3-11.5 that defines “service animal” in a way that isn’t necessarily consistent with the federal definition under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This legislation uses the definition of service animal in IC 36-46-3-11.5. The inconsistencies could get people in trouble — if, for example, they rely on the state definition and end up violating the ADA as a result. Another problem, potentially, is that people aren’t going to know whether their own dog meets the definition of “service animal.” Perhaps they are disabled, but the training the dog receives isn’t related to that disability. Or maybe they misunderstand the distinction between emotional support animal and service animal and think that one of these mail away places that gives you ESA documentation is certifying that your dog is a service animal.
In any case, there seem to be people who simply want to bring their pets places and are abusing the ADA regulations on service animals to do it. That’s something that ought to be addressed for the benefit of property owners and individuals with disabilities who have legitimate service animals.