Fake service dogs called growing problem

St. Louis, Mo. (KSDK/NBC) — It’s no wonder we want to take our pets with us everywhere we go. And until now, most places have been off limits to most dogs.

Dianne Peters’ Golden retriever Calgary is an exception because he’s a trained service dog. But more and more, pet owners are doing what service dog trainer Peters has been doing for 10 years. The big difference is – they’re faking, passing their pets off as service dogs. Peters said, “It waters everything down no one knows really what to believe.”

Veronica and Brad Morris run an organization called psychiatric service dog partners. Veronica owns her own service dog who helps manage the anxiety she sometimes feels in public.  She said, “It’s really offensive to me that people would be faking a disability because to fake a service dog you have to fake a disability and it’s really upsetting to me that people would do that.”

Pam Budke Bolton, Champ Assistance Dog Executive Director said, “It is a growing problem.” For the first time, Pam Bolton, the executive director of two service dog training programs thinks there should be some kind of regulation cracking down on imposters, “When you go into a business, people look at you differently than they used to. They just expected really good behavior from your dog. Now they kind of look at you and watch you as you walk thru to make sure your dog is going to behave.”

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are only two questions business can ask when service dogs come through the door. “’Is this a service dog that is required for a disability?’ And if the person says ‘yes’, you can ask them, ‘What is your dog trained to do to help you?’” said Budke Bolton.

The Morris’ say fake service dogs have not just made business owners leery about the presence of dogs, but they’ve created a kind of backlash against people who really need them.

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