Is it illegal to Harass a Service Dog?

Posted by

Is it illegal to Harass a Service Dog jpg

In the United States, service dogs play a critical role in assisting individuals with disabilities, offering them independence and support in daily activities. Given their importance, laws at both the federal and state levels offer protection to these animals from harassment or harm. This article delves into the legalities surrounding the harassment of service dogs, the implications of such actions, and the protective measures in place to safeguard these essential companions.

Related posts

Understanding Service Dog Protections

Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides the legal framework that protects the rights of individuals with service animals.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Under the ADA, service dogs must be allowed in public places where their owners go. This act makes it clear that interfering with a service dog’s duties is a violation of federal law.

State Laws and Penalties

Beyond federal protections, individual states have enacted laws that further protect service dogs from harassment, harm, or interference. These laws can vary widely but often include fines, and in some cases, imprisonment for those found guilty of harassing a service dog.

Example State Law

  1. California: Harassment or interference with a service dog’s duties is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and/or imprisonment for up to six months.
  2. New York: Causing physical injury to a service dog is considered a misdemeanor, with fines up to $1,000 and a possible jail sentence of up to one year.
  3. Texas: Intentionally harming a service animal can lead to a felony charge, with penalties including a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to two years.
  4. Florida: Disturbing, harming, or interfering with a service dog’s performance is punishable by a fine up to $5,000 and restitution costs covering the animal’s value and veterinary bills.
  5. Illinois: A person who allows their pet to attack a service dog may face fines and is liable for damages, including the service dog’s replacement and training costs.
  6. Pennsylvania: Interfering with the rights of a person with a service dog is a summary offense that can result in fines and required community service hours.
  7. Ohio: Knowingly causing death or serious injury to a service dog is a misdemeanor of the first degree, with penalties including a fine of up to $5,000 and a potential jail sentence.
  8. Michigan: Harassment of a service dog that leads to injury or death can result in felony charges, significant fines, and compensation for the replacement and training of a new service dog.
  9. Washington: Intentionally injuring a service animal is a gross misdemeanor, with higher penalties if the act results in the animal’s death or if the offender has previous convictions.
  10. Colorado: Obstructing or denying access to a person with a service dog in public spaces is subject to fines and community service, emphasizing the right of access for individuals with disabilities.

The Definition of Harassment

Harassment of a service dog can take many forms, from physical harm to distracting or provoking the animal, making it unable to perform its duties effectively.

Legal Definition: While the specific definition of harassment can vary by jurisdiction, it generally includes any action that is likely to interfere with a service dog’s ability to perform its duties or causes unnecessary stress to the animal.

Real-World Implications

Cases of service dog harassment not only affect the well-being of the animal but also directly impact the quality of life of the person it serves. Such incidents can lead to a reassessment of the dog’s ability to work and, in severe cases, its removal from service.

Individuals who witness or are victims of service dog harassment have several avenues for recourse, including reporting the incident to local law enforcement or filing a complaint with the Department of Justice.

Reporting Process: Victims are encouraged to document the incident thoroughly and report it as soon as possible to ensure that appropriate legal measures can be taken against the perpetrator.


The harassment of service dogs is not only a moral issue but a legal one, with significant consequences for those found guilty. The protections in place under federal and state laws underscore the critical role service dogs play in supporting their handlers’ independence and well-being.


How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 5 / 5. Vote count: 1

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *