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Delaware Senate Republicans

Legislation Introduced to Create Penalties for Misrepresentation of a Service Animal

March 4, 2024

DOVER, DE – Legislation recommending the creation of penalties for misrepresentation of a service animal under the Delaware Equal Accommodations Law and misrepresentation of an assistance animal under the Delaware Fair Housing Act has been introduced into Delaware’s General Assembly.

Sponsored by Senator Dave Lawson (R- Marydel) and Representative Danny Short (R-Seaford), SB 219 would create penalties for those who falsely advertise their animal as a service or assistance animal.

The language of these penalties is different, because under both federal and State law, a broader range of animals must be allowed as a reasonable accommodation in housing to an individual with a disability and more disability-related information may be requested than in places of public accommodation. However, the penalties are the same: a first violation is a civil penalty in the amount of $500 and each subsequent offense is an unclassified misdemeanor.  

“Service animals deserve proper recognition for the work that they do and should receive all liberties that accompany that designation,” Senator Lawson said. “This bill will address the issue of false service/assistance animal classification that has gone on or far too long.”

This act would also update the terms, definitions, and requirements for assistance animals under the Delaware Fair Housing Act to align with federal law and makes corresponding changes to the Residential Landlord-Tenant Code and would also make corresponding changes and technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.

“State law ensures that people needing service animals are not discriminated against when it comes to finding a place to live,” said State Rep. Danny Short. “This proposal seeks to crack down on those engaging in fraud and misusing this law.  It’ll protect landlords from being taken advantage of and preserves the legal rights of service animal owners from being discredited and undermined.”

SB 219 was introduced on February 29, 2024, and is awaiting consideration in the Senate Banking, Business, Insurance and Technology Committee.


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