In late July 2020, the Missouri General Assembly passed Senate Bill No. 656 to enact twenty-one new sections relating to veterans. Included in this bill is updated legislation pertaining to the rights and responsibilities of those who utilize service and assistance animals in Missouri. Updated service and assistance animal legislation appears in section 209.150 of the bill.
In Missouri, the term “service dog” means “A dog that is being or has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability”. Service dog protections include areas covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, including public accommodations and programs or facilities of state or local governments. The State of Missouri now recognizes and defines several classes of service animal, including but not limited to:
- Guide dog
- Hearing dog
- Medical alert or response dog
- Mental health service dog
- Mobility dog
- Professional therapy dog
- Search and rescue dog
- Service dog team
The State of Missouri also recognizes the exception of “miniature horses” in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Any person who knowingly misrepresents an animal as a service animal in an attempt to gain access to a place of public accommodation or a state or local government program or facility is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor and is responsible for any actual damages incurred during such interaction. Future violations may be treated as Class B misdemeanors with the same damage responsibilities as the first violation.
In addition, Senate Bill No. 656 provides that people using “assistance animals” (including animals other than dogs) have the right to access housing covered by the Fair Housing Act. The definition of an assistance animal in Missouri is “an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks, for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability.” As with public accommodations and governmental programs and facilities, any person who knowingly misrepresents a service or assistance animal for the purpose of receiving accommodations in housing shall be guilty of either a class C or class B misdemeanor and will be responsible for all actual damages caused by the animal or the action of the person involved.
Misrepresentation of a service dog or assistance animal includes but is not limited to:
- Knowingly creating documents that falsely represent that a dog is a service or assistance animal
- Knowingly providing to another person documents falsely stating that an animal is a service dog or assistance animal
- Knowingly fitting a dog, if the dog is not a service dog, or the animal, if the animal is not an assistance animal, with a harness, collar, vest, or sign of the type commonly used by a person with a disability to indicate service dog or assistance animal status
- Knowingly and intentionally misrepresenting a material fact to a health care provider for the purpose of obtaining documentation from the health care provider to designate a dog as a service dog or an animal as an assistance animal.
Missouri’s new service animal legislation exceeds the Americans with Disabilities Act as it explicitly covers service and assistance animals in training in both housing covered by the Fair Housing Act and other covered public settings throughout the state.
The Governor’ Council on Disability has developed updated resources regarding service animals under both federal and Missouri state laws. These resource can be found on the Service Animals page of the Missouri Disability Portal at https://disability.mo.gov/serviceanimals.htm. The updates include:
- A revised Service Animals Allowed booklet
- A one page fact sheet for business owners
- A one page fact sheet on assistance animals in housing
- A placard which can be placed in the window or door of a business
*The fact sheets and placard were designed in accordance with Senate Bills 644 and 656. The bills take effect on August 28, 2020.
For more information on updates to Missouri legislation related to service dogs and assistance animals, please contact the Great Plains ADA Center.
Updated: August 7, 2020