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New Michigan service animal law affects businesses, imposters

New service animal law effective in March
Paws with a Cause training manager and senior staff trainer Crystal Snyder with service-dog-in-training Tiger
Posted at 4:51 AM, Feb 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-13 16:04:41-05

ALLEGAN, MI — A new Michigan law allows service animals and their trainers to get access to more businesses and restaurants without fear of being denied entry.

An official service animal is defined as an animal that provides assistance to a person with a disability.On average, it takes up to two years to fully train a service animal, and that includes training in public spaces and inside businesses.

This new law help service animals train with more ease.

Dealer working with service animal trainer Crystal Snyder on following along a client with balance impairment
Dealer working with service animal trainer Crystal Snyder on following along a client with balance impairment

The nonprofit Paws with a Causeworked with former State Representative Tommy Brann to pass the legislation in 2022.

Paws with a Cause training manager and senior staff trainer Crystal Snyder says the new law helps her do her job more efficiently, setting up the animals for success in all types of environments— crowded restaurants, busy hardware stores, and loud bars.

Paws with a Cause training manager and senior staff trainer Crystal Snyder with service-dog-in-training Tiger
Paws with a Cause training manager and senior staff trainer Crystal Snyder with service-dog-in-training Tiger

"Previously, our trainers and our volunteer puppy raisers didn't have guaranteed access rights," Snyder said.

Rep. Brann said he worked on the legislation because he heard about trainers getting kicked out of businesses without reason and understands how critical the animals are to people with mental and physical disabilities.

"Training dogs need real life, just like we all do, training," Brann said. "This gives them real life training."

The bill was signed into law by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2022 and officially goes into effect March 1, 2023.

The law states that Michigan businesses and restaurants can only ask service animal in-training to leave if they're "out of control" or are not house trained.

Tiger working on commands with Paws with a Cause service animal trainer
Tiger working on commands with Paws with a Cause service animal trainer

Snyder adds that if you see a service animal training or working, ask the handler if you can pet them. She says it's usually a big distraction with focus being a critical part of the job.

A reminder – you can face a fine if you try to pass off an unqualified animal as a service animal or a service-animal in training. The state says that qualifies as a misdemeanor and punishments include potential prison time up to 90 days, a fine of no more $500 and up to 30 days of community service.

Penalties for attempting to pass an unqualified animal as a service animal
Penalties for attempting to pass an unqualified animal as a service animal