Spokane woman supports stricter penalties for “misrepresentation” of service animals

Every step they take, they take together.

Laura Renz spent years with a trainer coaching her lab Little One for her job as a service dog.

Renz was seriously injured in 2012 when a driver blew a stop sign and hit Renz while she was riding her motorcycle.

Before Little One, she relied on her German shepherd Vinny. Renz said his career was cut short after multiple dogs came after him in public.

Spokane woman supports stricter penalties for “misrepresentation” of service animals

“That was that,” Renz said.

He was never the same.

Now, Renz runs a nonprofit called NorthWest Service Dog Alliance. Her advocacy has connected countless handlers with resources and trainings. The group also helped mediate cases with access issues and informed people about the rights and needs of service dogs.

“The service dogs that are trained and the disabled people, we are tired of our dogs getting jumped on and bitten,” Renz said.

That’s why Renz wants Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan’s proposal to pass Monday night.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Renz said.

It would prohibit the misrepresentation of animals as service animals and fine people if they break the code. It would fall under a Class 3 civil infraction. The fine would increase by one class for each subsequent violation by the same person.

So, the first citation would be $56. The second time they were cited would cost $131. The third time would cost $261.

The proposal is modeled after a state law passed by the legislature earlier this year. It includes a fine of $500 dollars, nearly double what the Spokane proposal is.

That law, and Fagan’s proposal, allows enforcement officers to ask if a service animal is required due to a disability and what tasks the animal is trained to do. If a person doesn’t answer or the animal is clearly not a service animal, the officer can ask them to leave the area and fine them.

Renz hopes adding the fine will get service dogs and their handlers one step closer to peace of mind.

“I had my last service dog taken from me so I don’t want to lose another one,” Renz said.

The council votes on the measure tonight at their weekly meeting. It starts at 6:00 p.m. at the Spokane City Hall.

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