So in case you had not heard this news. Virginia as of July 1, 2016 made it a class 4 misdemeanor to misrepresent a dog as a service dog or hearing dog with a fine of up to $250. I am happy about this change for everyone out there who currently lives in Virginia and has a service dog. I think this is a step in the right direction. Apparently this makes Virginia the 19th state to have an official law on the books that makes it a crime to misrepresent a dog as a service dog.
So why is this important? Well in my opinion there are a couple reasons a) if a fake dog attacks a another dog the owners have to prove that the dogs are service dogs and were legitimately supposed to be there. So I think this will help deter some people. While a store cannot ask the person if they are disabled because that is against the law they can ask if their animal is a service animal. Also in these cases charges can be pressed because it is now a misdemeanor.
I love service animals but I also understand the amount of WORK it takes to train a service animal and constant training it takes. I really am in awe of how much these animals can tune out in the stores, restaurants, schools etc! I have worked with and met a lot of people through the years with service animals and I know how much they love their animals and I also know how fake animals ruin the reputation of their good name. Service animals have gone through a LOT of training to get acclimated to being in the public, to being in busy stores, on buses, restaurants, etc. When you have someone who comes in with a fake animal without all the training who does not know how to behave store owners get annoyed.
I have worked retail before I got hurt and we would have to ask people to leave with their animals because they were not service animals. We would have to clearly state that only service animals were allowed in the store, and people would get upset, but it really was for the health and safety of all. So I am happy for all the people who have service animals, I hope this helps them. I know this is a law that time will tell.