House Bill 1426
Intentional Misrepresentation of Entitlement To An Assistance Animal
HB16-1426, Intentional Misrepresentation of Entitlement to An Assistance Animal, sponsored by Representatives Primavera (D-Broomfield) and Willett, (R-Grand Junction) passed unanimously out of the House Public Health Care and Human Services committee on April 19th. This bill addresses both service animals and assistance animals.
A DESIGNATED MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL…
Concerning assistance animals, it requires designated medical professionals, when approached by a patient seeking an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation in housing, to make a written determination as to whether the patient has a disability as defined by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”) and whether the need for the animal is related to that disability, or that there is insufficient evidence to make that disability determination. The medical professional is required to meet with the patient in person, be sufficiently familiar with the patient and disability, and be legally and professionally qualified to make the disability determination.
CRIME TO INTENTIONALLY MISREPRESENT
Regarding service animals, the legislation creates a crime of intentional misrepresentation of a service animal if: a person intentionally misrepresents an animal in his or her possession as a service animal or service-animal-in-training in order to obtain any of the rights afforded to individuals with service animals under Colorado disabilities law. The bill establishes class 2 petty offenses for both intentional misrepresentation of entitlement to an assistance animal and intentional misrepresentation of a service animal for a person with a disability.
The legislation further authorizes the division to educate the public through public service announcements and its website about: a) the definitions of both types of animals and the associated criminal penalties, b) complaint processes for those encountering discrimination, c) newly created uniform signage for public accommodations, and d) newly created forms for landlords, healthcare providers, and individuals with a disability to use in making the disability determinations. Finally, it creates a training program for law enforcement officers around these crimes.
Recently, CAR (Colorado Association of Realtors) expressed that their interest in the assistance and service animal issue is due to the volume of feedback received from members and property owners confused with the seemingly infinite expansion of the use of these animals. CAR indicated that the use of these animals is a big concern for many property managers and landlords across the country who maintain compliance with federal disability and fair housing law, but also have concerns about tenants who have pet allergies or the slippery slope of allowing any type of animal including reptiles, birds or dangerous dog breeds, such as pitbulls, as assistance animals.
This legislation is a reasonable attempt to instill some guidelines for landlords and property managers on whether they can approve or deny requests from tenants who want to have an assistance animal without running afoul of federal fair housing and disability law by putting into place a requirement for medical professional sign off of a disability from a patient.
The legislation also potentially deters the occurrences of people exploiting the confusion related to service animals to attempt to their bring pets, therapy animals, or assistance animals into places where they are not otherwise allowed under Colorado and federal disability law. By addressing the misrepresentation of ineligible utilization of service animals, the bill prevents public mistrust in the lawfully abiding citizens’ proper use of a disability-required service animal in the proper place and manner.