House Bill 944 goes into effect July 1

Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 30, 2018

On July 1, House Bill 944 will become law. When it does, it will allow anyone diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder to bring their service animal into public places of business and other public areas.

According to the Bill, HB 944 amends section 43-6-153 of the Mississippi code. Previously, only those with physical disabilities such as blindness or deafness were able to take their service animal into public places. However, the code has now been amended to include those who need support animals to help them deal with the effects of PTSD.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

According to the bill, those with support animals may have them in whatever situation they need for regular day-to-day life.

This means animals can be taken into hotels, businesses, public conveyances and other areas without the fear of being turned away or charged for the presence of that animal. In addition, those who are training animals specifically to serve as a service or support animal are granted the ability to go into these areas for the purpose of training it.

“’Support animal’ means an animal 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. The work done or task performed must be directly related to the individual’s disability,” the bill states.

According to the bill, the term “support animal” is limited to trained dogs or miniature horses and does not include “pet” animals.

“’Support animal’ includes service animals, guide animals, seeing-eye animals, hearing-ear animals, therapeutic animals, comfort animals and facility animals,” the bill states.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, about seven to eight percent of the population in the United States will develop PTSD at some point, and in any given year, about eight million adults suffer from the disorder.

Dogs can help PTSD sufferers recover or experience relief from their symptoms, the website states, because dogs provide a reason for those people to go outdoors, be social and can entice loving emotions.

From July 1 onward, any business or public institution that turns away a person who is lawfully in possession of a service dog (including those with PTSD) will be subject to a fine and possible jail time.

“Any person or persons, firm or corporation who denies or interferes with admittance to or enjoyment of the public facilities as specified, or otherwise interferes with the rights of a totally or partially blind person, deaf person or other disabled person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not exceeding sixty days, or by both such fine and imprisonment,” Miss. code 43-6-11 states.