Governor McMaster Signs Service Animal Bill into Law
Columbia, SC — Governor McMaster signed Senate Bill 281 on May 16, 2019. The bill makes several changes to South Carolina law surrounding assistance animals:
- The bill expands protection of service animals to include “service animals in training.”
- The bill clarifies that a landlord, upon a tenant’s request to keep an emotional support animal as an accommodation for a disability, may ask for documentation related to only two questions:
- (a) Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability that is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?
- (b) Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability related need for the animal?’
- It provides that an individual who intentionally misrepresents a pet as a service animal can be liable for a civil fine, starting at $250 for a first offense.
- No one found liable under the statute will be subject to custodial arrest.
- The bill specifies that a proprietor or employee of a business, such as a restaurant manager, may ask only two questions, consistent with federal regulations. Law enforcement, if called, are also only allowed to ask these two questions:
- (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and
- (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
Other current laws related to service animals remain in place:
- A place of public accommodation cannot ask for “proof” of service animal training.
- If an alleged or actual service dog is incontinent or out of the control of the individual, both state and federal law allow a business to exclude the service dog, regardless of training status.
- Pigs, peacocks, and other unusual animals passengers attempted to bring on planes in viral stories have never been service animals under the ADA. Only dogs are service animals, except in the rare circumstance that a miniature horse is used for mobility stabilization and related tasks.
A rationale offered by backers of the bill is that when owners pretend their pet is a service animal, backlash against poor animal behavior can affect people who use trained service animals. In some instances, fake service animals have even attacked real, expensively trained service dogs. P&A is hopeful that this bill will result in fewer “fake” service animals, and that it will not inadvertently encourage harassment of people with trained service dogs. If any person with a disability who uses a service animal is asked questions outside the scope of those outlined above; is prevented from entering a place of public accommodation with their animal; or is denied housing based on their need for an assistance animal; they may contact P&A to report the violation toll-free at 866-275-7273.
Media Contact: P&A Policy Attorney Kathleen Warthen, 803-217-6703, firstname.lastname@example.org