A Florida House bill that could land dog owners in jail for passing off their pet as a service dog won another unanimous vote and is now headed to its final committee stop.
HB 71 is now in the House State Affairs Committee after passing through the House Government Operations Subcommittee and House Judiciary Committee with unanimous votes.
The bill the definition of “individual with a disability” to add an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits at least one major life activities, such as caring for one’s self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
The bill defines a”physical or mental impairment” as a physiological disorder or condition that affects at least one bodily function or a mental or psychological disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Service animals are limited to dogs and miniature horses and can be removed from a business or other public place if the animal is not under the handler’s control, is not housebroken, or poses a serious threat to others. Service animal owners cannot be asked about their disability, but may be asked if the animal is a service animal and what tasks it performs to assist its owner.
Finally, interfering with the disabled and their service animals and pet owners who lie about having a disability and falsely claim that their pet is a service animal are guilty of a second degree misdemeanor and can be sentenced to up to 60 days in jail, fined up to $500 and must perform 30 hours of community service for an organization that serves people with disabilities or another entity, at the discretion of a judge.
A similar bill in the Senate, SB 414, has not made it out of its first committee stop.