Misrepresenting a pet as a service animal is a crime under new state law

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - If you take your pet into a business disguised as a service animal, it can cause problems for real ones. And, now it's illegal in Colorado to do that.

Service dog guides a woman who is blind.

Under the new law in Colorado, it is now a crime to intentionally misrepresent a pet as a service animal. That new law went into effect when we rang in the new year.

The first time it happens, you can get a warning. Then you can face fines ranging from $50 to $500.

It can be a real problem when a pet poses as a service animal.

"In many ways, it endangers, number one, a service animal, even just physically because many times an animal that's not trained, does not behave and react accurately around other animals," said Maggie Sims, Rocky Mountain ADA Center Project Manager.

“Sometimes those jobs can be life and death. And so when we distract or take away from that service animal, we’re putting the owner’s life in jeopardy, too," Sims added.

We talked to our local experts who deal with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"Under the federal law, under the ADA, a service animal is a dog, and in some cases, it can be a miniature pony, that has been specifically trained to perform a certain task for an individual with a disability," said Sims.

In order to be a service animal, it has to meet two requirements.

"For example, a store, they could ask me two questions: They can ask me, 'Is this a service animal needed because of a disability?' And the second question, 'What task has that animal been trained to perform?' So I don't have to reveal what my disability is, but I do need to be able to answer those two questions," said Sims.

A lot of people have companion animals, but businesses are not required to allow those animals in.