A disabled woman's post on fake service animals perfectly explains why it's a big problem
Service dogs are true blessings that provide a wide array of services for their owners based on their disability.
They can provide preventative alerts for people with epilepsy and dysautonomia. They can do small household tasks like turning lights on and off or providing stability for their owners while standing or walking.
For those with PTSD they can provide emotional support to help them in triggering situations.
However, there are many people out there who fraudulently claim their pets are service or emotional support animals. These trained animals can cause disturbances in businesses or on public transportation.
They can also be a danger or distraction to trained service dogs on-the-job.
According to a 2016 survey by the California-based Canine Companions for Independence, over 77% of its graduates have had an encounter with a fraudulent or out-of-control service dog and more than half have had their dog bitten, snapped at or distracted by one of these dogs.
When fraudulent service animals cause trouble they make life a lot more difficult for people with legitimate, trained service dogs, because business owners think they will cause a disturbance.
Tumblr user TrainingFaith, who has a Miniature American Shepherd trained as my medical alert and psychiatric service dog, perfectly explained the situation on her blog.
The good news is that lawmakers are starting to crack down on fake service dogs. Twenty-one states have recently passed laws that punish those who falsely claim their pets are service and support animals.
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In Arizona, those who "fraudulently misrepresent" service animals are subject to a $250 fine.
The big problem is that there is no uniform nationwide certification program or registration process for service animals so people can scam a nonexistent system. Plus, it's easy for people to go online and buy "service dog" harnesses and vests for their pets so business owners and law enforcement have no idea which animals are legitimate.
"If you have a legitimate condition and the dog, or whatever animal, within reason, helps alleviate it, that's great, this is America," Arizona state senator John Kavanagh said according to NBC News.
"But if you're just someone who needed to have Pookie around because you're upset when she's not there, that is not okay."