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Faking service dog ownership is fraud, and a crime in California. (PC 365.7) It is infringement upon the rights the state of California grants to disabled citizens. Service dog fraud is classified as a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of $1000 and/or six months imprisonment in the county jail.
Charges of service dog fraud imply that you willingly and fraudulently represented yourself as an owner or trainer of a dog qualified as a signal, guide or service dog. Verbally stating that the dog is a service dog when it is not is service dog fraud.
For example, Betty is overweight and often uses a mobile chair when shopping. She puts a vest on her chihuahua, Molly, and lets her ride along. Betty has no problem with stating that Molly is a service dog if questioned. Molly is not trained to fulfill a need. Betty is willingly committing service dog fraud.
A ‘service dog’ is any canine trained to assist an individual with a disability. The services may include guidance, protection, retrieving dropped items or towing a wheelchair.
The definition of ‘disability’ under California law is by necessity, broad. It includes mental as well as physical disabilities. Mental disabilities can be due to physical or emotional illness and disrupt activities of daily living.
Specific mental disabilities that may benefit from a service dog include:
Because of the specific needs of disabled persons, a service dog must be trained to perform a certain task to fulfill the need.
Business owners are allowed to ask two questions pertaining to canine services, by permission of the US Department of Justice.
1. Is this a service dog needed because of a disability?
2. How is this dog trained to assist with a disability?
There is no legitimate certification to present for service dogs. Some trainers will provide personal certification for the dogs they train, and some do not. The written documentation of a trainer is the only court proof of a service dog’s legitimacy, and it is not an official certification.
Presenting ‘official’ I.D. and certification for a service dog is fraud.
Because of the high incidence of service dog fraud, efforts to curb the trend by law enforcement lead to discrimination against legitimate service dog use, particularly when the dog is necessary for an unseen disability.
There are important factors to note with service dog presentation. You may not be aware of the specific requirement for a service dog to perform a task. Perhaps you have an anxiety disorder, and the dog provides reassurance in public areas. In this case, the dog would not be performing an active service, and you could be accused of service dog fraud. However, you did not commit service dog fraud knowingly. Therefore, a Los Angeles criminal law attorney can assist you in declaring your innocence.
Please call a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer to discuss your case in regards to Penal Code 365.7 service dog fraud. A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer will be knowledgeable about the broad spectrum of this law, and that people accused are often unaware of the specific requirements for service dogs.