Committee Reports

Report raising concerns over legislation which would prohibit the misrepresentation of pets as service animals


The City Bar, through a working group of members from the Animal Law, Civil Rights and Disability Law Committees, has been seeking to improve understanding of laws recognizing rights of people with disabilities to use service animals in New York in order to foster and enhance compliance with those laws and reduce the considerable confusion that prevails on the subject.  The group has raised concerns that pending state legislation would add to such confusion and, in particular, would mislead merchants and other places of public accommodation into conduct that could create liability for violation of federal law. The bill would prohibit knowingly labeling a dog or animal in order to misrepresent that it is a guide, hearing or service animal and seeking to “receive the accommodations afforded to … [such] animals” under Article 4-B of the State Civil Rights Law or under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  While the group recognizes that such misrepresentation occurs and is problematic, regulations under the ADA promulgated by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) strike a careful balance with respect to use of service animals in private and government places of public accommodation to the extent DOJ has jurisdiction.  This balance in ADA provisions relating to places of public accommodations would be undermined by the present bill, which would encourage covered entities to believe they could make inquiries beyond the ADA limits.  The decision to oppose the bill is consistent with the group’s longstanding and ultimately successful efforts to pass legislation that served to clarify rights in this area.


A.7764 (AM Steck) / S.5406 (Sen. Farley) – relates to the misrepresentation of guide dogs (NYS 2015-16)