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ANIMALS - LEGISLATION; HANDICAPPED;

OLR Research Report


February 4, 2010

 

2010-R-0048

HARASSING SERVICE ANIMALS

By: Christopher Reinhart, Senior Attorney

You asked about Connecticut's laws protecting service animals and states with laws that prohibit interfering with or harassing service animals.

SUMMARY

Connecticut law does not specifically address interfering with or harassing service animals. The law does require the owner or keeper of a dog to control the dog on a leash while not on the person's property and near a blind, deaf, or mobility impaired person who is accompanied by a guide dog under his or her direct custody. The guide dog must be licensed and wear a harness or orange-colored leash and collar that makes it readily-identifiable as a guide dog. A violation is an infraction and if the dog attacks and injures the guide dog, the owner or keeper is liable for damage to the guide dog including costs for the dog's veterinary care, rehabilitation, or replacement and reasonable attorney's fees (CGS 22-364b).

It is also illegal under Connecticut law for businesses that offer their services, facilities, and goods to the public to prevent people with service animals from entering the premises. The law prohibits such businesses, which include all places of public accommodation, resort, and amusement, from discriminating against them in any way. It is also illegal for employers, employment agencies, and labor unions to discriminate against people because of a physical disability.

We found 24 states that prohibit the harassment of service animals or similar conduct that interferes with a service animal performing its duties. These states vary in the type of conduct they prohibit, such as prohibiting interference, harassment, intimidation, or jeopardizing the user's or animal's safety. Some states specify that the conduct must be intentional, willful, malicious, or reckless. Some require notice that the person is interfering with the service animal before the conduct becomes punishable. Eight of these states specifically prohibit allowing a dog to interfere with a service animal.

All but two of the 24 states (Texas and Virginia) allow a court to impose a prison sentence for violations. Some impose higher penalties for subsequent violations. Five specifically authorize a civil action for damages or allow a court to require the defendant to pay restitution.

CONNECTICUT LAW—ACCESS AND DISCRIMINATION

Public Transportation and Accommodation

The law allows a blind, deaf, or mobility impaired person or a person training a dog to assist such a person to travel on public transportation and enter any place of public accommodation with his or her guide or assistance dog and keep the dog with him or her at all times at no extra charge. The dog must remain under the person's direct custody and wear a harness or orange leash or collar. The law applies to places of public accommodation offering services, facilities, or goods to the public, including public buildings, inns, restaurants, hotels, motels, tourist cabins, and places of amusement. The law also applies to dwellings when the person is a guest of a lawful occupant, but owner-occupied, two-family houses and room-rentals are exempt.

Violation of this law is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in prison, up to $500 fine, or both (CGS 46a-44).

Discrimination – Right to Have Dog and Liability

The law gives any blind, deaf, or mobility impaired person or any person training a dog as a guide dog or an assistance dog the right to keep the dog with him or her at all times in any place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement at no extra charge. The dog must wear a harness or an orange-colored leash and collar and be in the direct custody of such person. The blind, deaf, or mobility impaired person or person training a dog is liable for any damage done to the premises or facilities by his dog (CGS 46a-64(a)).

It is illegal for businesses that offer their services, facilities, and goods to the public to prevent people with service animals from entering the premises. The law also prohibits such businesses, which include all places of public accommodation, resort, and amusement, from discriminating against them in any way. The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) has jurisdiction to investigate and to order businesses that violate the law to stop discriminating, pay damages, and take whatever affirmative action CHRO deems necessary. In addition, violators face criminal penalties of up to 30 days in prison, a $25 to $100 fine, or both.

It is an illegal discriminatory practice for any place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement to:

1. deny anyone full and equal accommodations or discriminate, segregate, or separate on account of physical disability, including blindness;

2. fail or refuse to post a notice, in a conspicuous place, that any blind, deaf, or mobility impaired person accompanied by his o her guide dog wearing a harness or an orange-colored leash and collar may enter such premises or facilities; or

3. deny full and equal access to any blind, deaf, or mobility impaired person, accompanied by his or her guide dog or assistance dog, or anyone training such a dog (CGS 46a-64).

The law defines a “place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement” as any establishment that offers its services, facilities, or goods to the general public, including, but not limited to, any commercial property or building lot on which it is intended that a commercial building will be constructed or offered for sale or rent (CGS 46a-63(1)).

OTHER STATES—HARASSMENT OR INTERFERENCE

We found 24 states that prohibit the harassment of service animals or similar conduct that interferes with a service animal performing its duties. Table 1 shows the conduct prohibited in each of these states and the penalty for violations.

Table 1: Statutes Prohibiting Harassing or Otherwise Interfering with Service Animals

State

Conduct Toward Service Animal

Penalty

Arizona

Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-2910

Reckless interference

Class 1 misdemeanor (up to six months in prison, up to $2,500 fine, or both)

Intentional or knowing interference or intentionally or knowingly allowing another dog to interfere

Class 6 felony (sentencing guidelines with presumptive five years in prison, up to $150,000 fine, or both)

Colorado

Colo. Rev. Stat. 18-13-107

Harassing, intimidating, enticing, distracting, or otherwise interfering

Class 3 misdemeanor (up to six months in prison, $50 to $750 fine, or both)

Delaware

Del. Code 1717

Intentional interference by obstructing, intimidating, or otherwise jeopardizing the user's or animal's safety

Class B misdemeanor (up to six months in prison, up to $1,150 fine, or both)

Restitution

Florida

Fla. Stat. 413.081

With reckless disregard, (1) interfering by obstructing, intimidating, or otherwise jeopardizing the user's or animal's safety or (2) allowing a dog to interfere

1st offense: 2nd degree misdemeanor (up to 60 days in prison, up to $500 fine, or both)

Subsequent offense: 1st

degree misdemeanor (up to one year in prison, up to $1,000 fine, or both)

Georgia

Ga. Code 16-11-107.1

Knowingly or intentionally harassing or attempting to harass

Misdemeanor (up to 90 days in prison, up to $500 fine, or both)

Knowingly or intentionally (1) harassing after notified of interference or (2) allowing dog to harass

First offense: Misdemeanor (up to 90 days in prison, up to $500 fine, or both)

Subsequent offense: High and aggravated misdemeanor (up to one year in prison, up to $5,000 fine, or both)

Hawaii

Haw. Rev. Stat. 711-1109.5

Intentional interference

Misdemeanor (up to one year in prison)

Idaho

Idaho Code 18-5811

Intentional interference by obstructing, battering, or intimidating

Misdemeanor (up to six months in prison, $50 to $1,500 fine, or both)

Table 1: -Continued-

State

Conduct Toward Service Animal

Penalty

Illinois

Ill. Rev. Stat. 510 ILCS 70/4.03

Interfering or meddling

First offense: class A misdemeanor (up to one year in prison)

Subsequent offense: class 4 felony (one to three years in prison, up to $25,000 fine, or both)

Willfully and maliciously annoying, taunting, harassing, tormenting, or otherwise engaging in conduct likely to impede or interfere with the animal performing its duties or placing the person assisted in danger of injury

Class A misdemeanor (up to one year in prison)

Indiana

Ind. Code 35-46-3-11.5

Knowingly or intentionally interfering with animal's actions while it is assisting

Class A misdemeanor (up to one year in prison, up to $5,000 fine, or both)

Michigan

Mich. Comp. Laws 750.50a

Willfully and maliciously harassing, impeding, interfering, or attempting to do so

Misdemeanor (up to 90 days in prison, up to $500 fine, or both)

Mississippi

Miss. Code 97-41-21

Willful and malicious harassment, impeding, or interfering with the dog's duties, or attempting to do so

Misdemeanor (up to 90 days in prison, up to $500 fine, or both)

Missouri

Mo. Rev. Stat. 209.202

Harassing or chasing

Knowingly or intentionally failing to control animal to prevent from chasing or harassing

Class B misdemeanor (30 days to six months in prison)

Nebraska

Neb. Rev. Stat. 28-4009.01

Intentional, threatened, or attempted harassment, impeding, or interference

Class 3 misdemeanor (up to three months in prison, up to $500 fine, or both)

Nevada

Nev. Stat. 426.790

Interfering or allowing a dog to interfere

Gross misdemeanor (up to one year in prison, up to $2,000 fine, or both)

Restitution

Civil action

New Mexico

N.M. Stat. 28-11-1.1

Intentional interference by harassing, obstructing, or intentionally failing or refusing to control a dog that interferes or obstructs

Misdemeanor (up to one year in prison, up to $1,000 fine, or both)

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. 14-163.1

Willful taunting, teasing, harassing, delaying, obstructing, or attempting to delay or obstruct the animal in performing its duties

Class 2 misdemeanor (one to 30 days in prison)

Restitution

Oklahoma

Okla. Title 21 649.3

Interfering with a service animal's lawful performance or encouraging or allowing an animal to interfere with a service animal in a place where the service animal resides or is performing

Misdemeanor (up to one year in prison, up to $1,000, or both)

Knowingly, willfully, and without justification interfering with a service animal's lawful performance while committing a felony or misdemeanor

Felony (up to two years in prison, up to $1,000 fine, or both)

Table 1: -Continued-

State

Conduct Toward Service Animal

Penalty

Oregon

Or. Rev. Stat. 167.352

Intentional or knowing interference with an assistance animal that is providing assistance

Class A misdemeanor (up to one year in prison, up to $6,250 fine, or both)

Pennsylvania

Pa. Stat. Title 18 5511(a)(1)(iii)

Willful and malicious harassment, annoyance, or interference

2nd degree misdemeanor (up to two years in prison, $500 to $5,000 fine, or both)

South Carolina

S.C. Code 47-3-930, -970

Continuing, with reckless disregard, to interfere by obstructing, intimidating, or otherwise jeopardizing the animal's or user's safety after notice that behavior is interfering

Allowing dog to interfere by obstructing, intimidating, or otherwise jeopardizing the animal's or user's safety with reckless disregard

Misdemeanor (up to 30 days in prison, up to $500 fine, or both)

South Dakota

S.D. Codified Laws 40-1-38

Malicious harassment, intimidation, enticing, distracting, or otherwise interfering

Class 2 misdemeanor (up to 30 days in prison, up to $500 fine, or both)

Texas

Tex. Human Resources Code

Title 8, 121.003, 121.004

Harassing, interfering, or attempting to do so

Misdemeanor (fine of $300 to $1,000)

Civil action for deprivation of civil liberties

Virginia

Va. Code 3.2-6588

Willful impeding or interfering with a dog's duties

Class 3 misdemeanor (up to $500 fine)

Washington

Wash. Rev. Code 9.91.170

After receiving notice that behavior is interfering, continuing with reckless disregard to interfere by obstructing, intimidating, or otherwise jeopardizing the animal's or user's safety

With reckless disregard, allowing a dog to interfere by obstructing, intimidating, or otherwise jeopardizing the animal's or user's safety

First offense: misdemeanor (up to 90 days in prison, up to $1,000, or both)

Subsequent offense: gross misdemeanor (up to one year in prison, up to $5,000 fine, or both)

CR:ts