California law allows persons with disabilities to bring trained service dogs and psychiatric service dogs, but not emotional support animals, to all public places. Several different California laws set out the rights of people with disabilities who use animals to assist them. These laws include the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the California Disabled Persons Act (CDPA), and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). (Federal disability rights laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), also protect the rights of people who use service dogs and emotional support animals. For more information, see our article on federal law regarding service animals. When federal and state law differ, whichever one offers greater protection will generally apply.)
New Law Starting Jan 1, 2022 regarding Emotional Support Animals. First, a person or business that sells or provides a dog for use as an emotional support dog will have to provide a written notice – in at least 12-point bold type, on the receipt or a separate paper – to the buyer or recipient of the dog stating that (1) the dog does not have the special training required to qualify as a guide, signal, or service dog; (2) the dog is not entitled to the rights and privileges accorded by law to a guide, signal, or service dog; and (3) knowingly and fraudulently representing oneself to be the owner or trainer of any canine licensed as, to be qualified as, or identified as, a guide, signal, or service dog is a misdemeanor.
“guide dog” means any guide dog that was trained by a licensed person.
“signal dog” means any dog trained to alert an individual who is deaf or hearing impaired to intruders or sounds.
“service dog” means any dog individually trained to the requirements of the individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, minimal protection work, rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.
West’s Ann. Cal. Civ. Code § 54.1
Every individual with a disability has the right to be accompanied by a guide dog, signal dog, or service dog in any public place without being required to pay an extra charge.
A violation of the right under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 also constitutes a violation of this section, and nothing in this section shall be construed to limit the access of any person in violation of that act.
West’s Ann. Cal. Civ. Code § 54.2
Anyone who denies or interferes with admittance to or enjoyment of the public facilities or otherwise interferes with the rights of an individual with a disability is liable for each offense for the actual damages up to a maximum of 3 times the amount of actual damages, but in no case less than $1,000, and attorney’s fees.
“Interfere,” for purposes of this section, includes, but is not limited to, preventing or causing the prevention of a guide dog, signal dog, or service dog from carrying out its functions in assisting a disabled person.
West’s Ann. Cal. Civ. Code § 54.3
It is a denial of equal access to housing accommodations to refuse to lease housing to an individual who uses an assistance dog.
West’s Ann. Cal. Civ. Code § 54.1
Trained guide dogs, signal dogs, and service dogs trained may be transported in a schoolbus when accompanied by disabled pupils enrolled in a public or private school or by disabled teachers employed in a public or private school or community college or by persons training the dogs.
West’s Ann.Cal.Educ.Code § 39839
Any person whointentionally interferes with the use of a guide, signal, or service dog or mobility aid by harassing or obstructing is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail up to 6 months, or fine of not less than $1,500 nor more than $2,500, or both.
West’s Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 365.6
Unlawful to permit any dog to injure or kill any service dog while the service dog is in discharge of its duties. Violation is infraction punishable by a fine if the injury is caused by the person’s failure to exercise ordinary care.
Violation is a misdemeanor if the injury is caused by reckless disregard in the exercise of control over his or her dog punishable by fine of not less $2,500 nor more than $5,000, or both. Upon conviction, the defendant shall make restitution, including veterinary bills and replacement costs.
West’s Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 600.2
Any person whointentionally causes injuryto or the death of any service dog, while the dog is in discharge of its duties, is guilty of a misdemeanor is guilty, punishable by imprisonment up to 1year, or by fine up to $10,000, or by both. Upon conviction, a defendant must make restitution to the person with a disability who has custody or ownership of the dog for any veterinary bills and replacement costs of the dog if it is disabled or killed.
West’s Ann. Cal. Penal Code § 600.5
A totally or partially blind pedestrian who is using a guide dog, shall have the right-of-way.
Driver must yield the right-of-way and take all reasonably necessary precautions to avoid injury to this blind pedestrian
Failure to do so is a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding 6 months, or a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $1,000, or both.
West’s Ann. Cal. Vehicle Code § 21963
For a license, person must sign affidavit stating dog is trained assistance dog. Person who makes false affidavit faces 6 months in jail and/or $1,000 fine.
Upon the death or retirement of an assistance dog, the owner or person in possession of the assistance dog identification tag shall immediately return the tag to the animal control department that issued the tag.
West’s Ann. Cal. Food & Agric. Code § 30850.
Any person who knowingly and fraudulently represents himself or herself, through verbal or written notice, to be the owner or trainer of any canine licensed/qualified/identified as a guide, signal, or service dog shall be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding 6 months, by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.
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