CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — A bill under consideration in the state legislature would crack down on fake service dogs with big fines for their handlers.
Under Oregon House Bill 2758, pet loving violators could face fines of up to $1,000.
Certified assistance dog trainer Laura Encinas at Dogs for Better Lives said its a growing problem in Oregon and nationally. She trains dogs to help those with special needs.
“Usually the person that we train the dog for has a disability of some sort and the dog assists with that disability,” Encinas said. “They have standards for testing as far as obedience, how the dog reacts in public, and all the task that are involved in their training,” she said.
But not every animal you see in a service vest in public is a true service animal. Encinas said she has seen first hand how people are putting dogs in vests and calling them service dogs.
“There was a woman that brought in a german shepherd-type dog with a red vest that stated it was a service dog and every time we saw that dog…that dog would bark, snarl and lunge at my dog,” she said.
Pet owners who abuse this privilege can put real services dog teams at risk she said.
“It was destressing to see something like that….that they actually considered a dog like that a service dog,” she said.
The internet makes obtaining a service dog vest very easy. Various websites offer to send you a vest and certification with a few clicks of a mouse.
Oregon House Bill 2758 would make it a misdemeanor to misrepresent a pet as a service animal.
“The training that a service dog receives is very important and maybe they shouldn’t take their pet or their emotional support animal out into public if they feel that it’s not trained properly,” she said.
Encinas said while it might be hard to enforce, she calls it a step in the right direction.
More than 20 states in the U.S. have some sort of bill already in place. The proposed bill is still in the house and has not been voted on yet.