ST. PAUL, Minn – A bill aimed at protecting the rights of service animal owners passed the Minnesota Senate yesterday. State Senator Ann H. Rest, DFL-New Hope, co-authored the bi-partisan bill with Senators Justin Eichorn (R-Grand Rapids), Paul Utke (R-Park Rapids), Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis), and Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove), that would create a new crime for knowingly misrepresenting a pet as a service animal.
“It’s important that we establish who is truly responsible when property is damaged or an injury occurs and not penalizing the wrong party,” said Rest. “Service animals play an important role in the lives of many Minnesotans, and we need to make sure others don’t take advantage of their roles in our society.”
The bill will create a new crime for knowingly misrepresenting an animal as a service animal or service animal in training to obtain the rights and privileges available to a person who qualifies for a service animal. The penalty for a first violation is a petty misdemeanor. Second and subsequent violations are a misdemeanor. The bill also establishes that property owners are not liable for any damage caused by the animal not due to negligence on the part of the owner.
Supporters include the Minnesota Retailers Association and Can-Do Canines, a New Hope-based organization that trains service dogs. They say the new crime and penalty are necessary to deter violators, and that they have recently noticed more incidents of misrepresentation of service animals in business establishments.