DENVER (CBS4) – There’s a renewed effort to regulate what is and what is not a service dog, and pet owners who pretend their pet is a service dog could be fined.

Dog owners are passing off their pets as service dogs so they can take them into apartments or businesses that don’t allow dogs. But when it comes to stopping it, even those with disabilities can’t agree on what to do.

“Because she not the typical breed you see for service dogs, the questions have really gotten a lot worse,” said service dog owner Christina Thomas.

Thomas says since lawmakers took up the issue of fake service animals this year she’s been the subject of harassment, even though Cassie is a legitimate service dog.

“She helps me with depth perception and balance … I have a brain injury,” Thomas told CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Thomas went to testify on the third bill related to assistance animals this session at the state Capitol. Rep. Yeulin Willet, R-Grand Junction, has carried two of them. He’s says the latest version addresses opponents’ concerns. It would require those with service or emotional support animals to get a note from a medical professional, social worker, or therapist that they have a disability and that the animal is needed to help with it.

“I think that will help the disabled community, and I think it will help landlords and tenants and neighbors; it will help shopkeepers and the general public who’s frankly tired of the abuses of the misrepresentation,” Willet said.

“I don’t think most medical people have that kind of training,” Thomas said.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Thomas says the bill will hurt more than help. Caitlyn Brady disagrees.

“Most doctors feel very comfortable writing that — in my experience,” Brady said.

She’s had a service dog 10 years and says the only way to expose the frauds is to hold them accountable.

“People are doing this despite knowing it’s wrong,” Brady said.

Under the bill fraudsters could be charged with a petty offense with fines starting at $350 and a misdemeanor if the dog is aggressive. The legislation also includes an education component.

The bill passed its first committee on Tuesday.


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