A press conference took place Wednesday at the Capitol as members of the Senate and I unveiled legislation we have authored regarding the misrepresentation of pets as service animals.
Another busy week is coming to a close in St. Paul. While we spend most of our time in the Legislature discussing meat-and-potato issues such as state finances and constitutional rights, we also take on other issues along the way.
For example, I joined Sen. Eichorn in hosting a press conference today to share information regarding bills we have authored to crack down on individuals misrepresenting their pets as service animals.
People have taken advantage of the fact there is no simple way to verify that an animal is a legitimate service animal. This puts innocent people and pets in dangerous situations they didn’t anticipate, sometimes resulting in physical harm.
As we noted in the press conference, some people may think it’s cute to pretend their dog is an assistance dog. They may even think it is a victimless crime, where it’s no big deal. In reality, we have heard numerous stories about the consequences these fakers can bring, including negativity cast toward legitimate, well-behaved service dogs through no fault of their own.
The legislation we are working on would make impersonating a service animal a petty misdemeanor with a $100 fine for the first offense and a misdemeanor for any subsequent offense. If enacted, Minnesota would join 20 other states that have passed similar laws.
In addition to making this a punishable offense, I hope our legislation creates some public awareness to help people understand the safety threat that is caused by misrepresenting animals. Our bills need more committee work, so we’ll see how things unfold.
On another note, Tuesday was Student Safety First Day in the House. Various committees hosted hearings on this subject. Bottom line: We are working to build off recent accomplishments such as providing funding for the School Safety Center and funding school-linked mental health grants. The House also is introducing legislation allowing schools to use the long-term facilities maintenance revenue program for school facility safety.
Look for more news from the Capitol soon.