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New Law Helps Protect the Right of Persons with Disabilities to Use Service Animals

Lansing - Today Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a four-bill package designed to help insure people with disabilities, including veterans, who use service animals in Michigan won’t be refused entry to businesses, schools, hospitals and other public accommodations.

The law, Service Animals for Persons with Disabilities, clarifies the rules regarding the use of service animals and updates the terminology related to service animals to bring it in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It also will make it easier for establishments to determine who is legally entitled to an accommodation.

“Many veterans return from their service with hidden disabilities – disabilities that aren’t immediately apparent, but that are just as real and limiting as other injuries,” said Matt Wesaw, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.  “This law will help anyone who relies on a service animal to go about their daily lives without the worry that they’ll be confronted or blocked from exercising their right to a service animal under the ADA.”

Under the new law, any person using a service animal can choose to register with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR). Once MDCR has verified the application, they will provide a patch to identify the service animal, and a voluntary ID card for the individual with the disability. The law will go into effect 90 days from its signing, on Jan. 18, 2016.

MDCR already uses its existing complaint system to take reports of problems encountered by anyone with a disability using a service animal. Under the new law, MDCR will also accept reports from businesses and other public accommodations of someone impersonating an individual with a disability using a service animal.  The department may refer criminal violations to law enforcement agencies for investigation.  The new law increases the penalty for attempting to impersonate an individual with a service animal to up to $500.

MDCR will issue guidelines for individuals who wish to request a patch and ID card prior to the law’s implementation, and will make that information available on the department’s website, www.michigan.gov/mdcr.

For a high resolution version of the MDCR service animal patch, send an email with your name and media outlet to Lisa Collins at CollinsL3@michigan.gov.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is charged with investigating and resolving discrimination complaints and works to prevent discrimination through educational programs that promote voluntary compliance with civil rights laws. The Department also provides information and services to businesses on diversity initiatives and equal employment law.  For more information on the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, go to www.michigan.gov/mdcr.

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