KENNEWICK, Wash. — A new Washington law makes it illegal to misrepresent your pet as a service animal.
It went into effect January 1st but health officials say it was long over-due.
Legislators passed the new law to clarify definitions and required accommodations for service animals.
Health leaders say there was some confusion around differences between pets, emotional support animals, and trained service animals.
RCW 49.60.214 states only dogs and miniature-horses qualify as service animals, and only when trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities.
Benton-Franklin Health District’s Kathleen Clary Cook says she hopes the new law keeps people honest, so those needing service animals are looked at with less skepticism.
"A lot of people have been abusing the system and claiming that their dogs or other animals are service animals," she said. "It's causing problems so establishments are cracking down on people with emotional support animals, they then crack down on people with actual service animals."
Under the new law, Police and other public services requiring accommodation are not allowed to ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability or for documentation or proof of the animal’s certification.
Instead, enforcement officers are order to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal.