Focus on New Laws: Misrepresenting a Service Animal

A new law allows a place of public accommodation—including a city building—to post a notice that misrepresenting an animal as a service animal is illegal.
(Published Oct 22, 2018)

A law that went into effect on Aug. 1 makes it a crime to misrepresent an animal as a service animal. A person who violates this law is guilty of a petty misdemeanor. A person who violates this law a second or subsequent time is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Chapter 106 provides that a person may not, directly or indirectly through statements or conduct, intentionally misrepresent an animal in that person’s possession as a service animal. This should not be done in any place of public accommodation—including a city facility—to obtain any rights or privileges available to a person who qualifies for a service animal under state or federal law, knowing that the person is not entitled to those rights or privileges.

What is a service animal?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a “service animal” may be a dog, or in some cases a miniature horse, individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the animal must be directly related to the person’s disability. The ADA allows these animals to go anywhere that the public is allowed to go.

Emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals are not considered service animals under the ADA. These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person. Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

—Learn more about service animals from the ADA website

Notice authorized

The new law provides that a conspicuous sign may be posted in a location accessible to public view in a place of public accommodation that contains the following, or substantially similar, language: “NOTICE: Service Animals Welcome. It is illegal for a person to misrepresent an animal in that person’s possession as a service animal.”

—View a sample sign from the Minnesota Council on Disability (pdf)

Liability limited

Under the new law, an owner of real property is not liable for any injury or damage caused by a service animal if: (1) the owner believes in good faith that the animal is a service animal or the individual using the service animal represents that the animal is a service animal; and (2) the injury or damage is not caused by the negligence of the owner of the real property and the owner is not liable under Minnesota Statutes, section 347.22.

Limitations of law

In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, the property’s owner or representative (including staff) may ask only two specific questions:

  1. Is the service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

The property owner or representative is not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person's disability.

Additional information

—Learn more about service animals from the Minnesota Council on Disability

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