Fake Guide Dog Owners Abuse the Law

June 13, 2014 11:29 am

Fake Guide Dog Owners Abuse the Law

The Los Angeles Times reports that: “Fake service dogs have businesses growling”.

According to the article by Marc Lifsher, the CA state Senate committee is looking into what the disabled community, dog trainers and businesses call a growing problem: fake service dogs.

Jim Power, a licensed trainer of guide dogs for the blind from San Rafael, CA, was visiting a crowded Southern California theme park recently when he spied “a 20-something lady … with a Chihuahua on a leash.” The small pooch wore a vest identifying it as a service dog.

“It didn’t particularly look … very legitimate,” Power told the committee.

Lifsher’s article says that representatives of the California restaurant, retail, hotel, apartment and condominium industries testified that dog owners who don’t want to be separated from their pets are abusing the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal and state laws by falsely identifying their canines as working animals.

Experts say that fake service dogs can create real problems at airports, and often times the owners are simply trying to save the several hundreds of dollars it could cost them to take their pets onboard.

Making it even easier for people to abuse the law is that service dog vests are available for purchase on several websites and anyone can buy one for a family pet.

Another problem is actually with the law itself. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, because of privacy issues, businesses can only ask dog owners two questions: one, “Is the dog a service animal,” and two, “For what work has the dog been trained?” Because the law is so broadly written and carries such high financial penalties for business owners who don’t allow legitimate service dogs, there is a growing trend for less than honest people to pretend their dogs are service dogs by impersonating a disabled person.

There are some ideas being considered to help stop the abuse.  They range from worrying less about privacy issues to creating public service campaigns.