Bill im­pos­ing penalty for false ser­vice an­i­mals heads to the gov­er­nor’s desk

West Hawaii Today - - Hawaii News - BY MICHAEL BRESTOVANSKY

HILO — A bill that would pe­nal­ize peo­ple who falsely present their pets as ser­vice an­i­mals passed its fi­nal read­ing Tues­day and will go be­fore the gov­er­nor’s of­fice for fi­nal con­sid­er­a­tion.

If Gov. David Ige ap­proves it, Se­nate Bill 2461 will im­pose fines on those who know­ingly mis­rep­re­sent a pet as a ser­vice an­i­mal in or­der to bring the an­i­mal to a place where it would oth­er­wise be pro­hib­ited.

Ac­cord­ing to the text of the bill, of­fend­ers can be fined be­tween $100 and $250 for their first vi­o­la­tion and be­tween $100 and $500 for any sub­se­quent vi­o­la­tion.

Tina Ya­maki, pres­i­dent of the Re­tail Mer­chants of Hawaii, said the bill hope­fully will cut down on en­coun­ters with un­trained an­i­mals in Hawaii re­tail lo­ca­tions.

“We’re see­ing more and more peo­ple bring­ing an­i­mals into stores,” Ya­maki said. “Some­times they re­lieve them­selves in the aisles.”

In ad­di­tion to mat­ters of hy­giene, Ya­maki said un­ruly an­i­mals can often present li­a­bil­ity is­sues. Un­trained an­i­mals can in­tim­i­date other cus­tomers and, if the an­i­mal bites a per­son, can open up a tor­tu­ous lit­i­ga­tion process.

The ques­tion, how­ever, is whether the bill can be suf­fi­ciently en­forced. Francine Wai, pres­i­dent of the Dis­abil­ity and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Ac­cess Board, was skep­ti­cal.

“It’s one thing to turn peo­ple away,” Wai said. “It’s an­other thing to try to pros­e­cute peo­ple.”

The prob­lem, Wai said, is in the amount of ev­i­dence re­quired to con­firm a vi­o­la­tion took place. Own­ers of gen­uine ser­vice an­i­mals do not ob­tain doc­u­men­ta­tion con­firm­ing the na­ture of their pets, mean­ing prov­ing false rep­re­sen­ta­tion oc­curred at all is not straight­for­ward.

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