Misrepresentation of Animal As Service Animal

Misrepresentation of Animal As Service Animal

Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), is it unlawful to misrepresent an animal as a service animal? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


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MISREPRESENTATION OF AN ANIMAL AS A SERVICE ANIMAL -- CIVIL INFRACTION

The relevant law is found under the WLAD, section 49.60.214 RCW, and it states as follows:

(1) It shall be a civil infraction under chapter 7.80 RCW for any person to misrepresent an animal as a service animal. A violation of this section occurs when a person:

(a) Expressly or impliedly represents that an animal is a service animal as defined in RCW 49.60.040 for the purpose of securing the rights or privileges afforded disabled persons accompanied by service animals set forth in state or federal law; and

(b) Knew or should have known that the animal in question did not meet the definition of a service animal.

(2)(a) An enforcement officer as defined under RCW 7.80.040 may investigate and enforce this section by making an inquiry of the person accompanied by the animal in question and issuing a civil infraction. Refusal to answer the questions allowable under (b) of this subsection shall create a presumption that the animal is not a service animal and the enforcement officer may issue a civil infraction and require the person to remove the animal from the place of public accommodation.

(b) An enforcement officer or place of public accommodation shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person's disability, but may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. An enforcement officer or place of public accommodation may ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. An enforcement officer or place of public accommodation shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, or require that the service animal demonstrate its task. Generally, an enforcement officer or place of public accommodation may not make these inquiries about a service animal when it is readily apparent that an animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability, such as a dog is observed guiding a person who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person's wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to a person with an observable mobility disability.

RCW 49.60.214(1), (2) (emphasis and hyperlinks added). 

CONCLUSION

Thus, it's a civil infraction under RCW 7.80 to misrepresent an animal as a service animal. Id. Particularly, a person violates RCW 49.60.214 when they (a) misrepresent their animal as a service animal (as defined by WLAD, RCW 49.60.040) to "secure rights or privileges afforded disabled persons accompanied by service animals … [under] state or federal law"; and (b) the person "knew or should have known that the animal in question did not meet the definition of a service animal." See 49.60.214(1) (emphasis and hyperlinks added).

LEARN MORE

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group; please see our DISCLAIMER.

–gw

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