Service animal fraud a growing concern across North Carolina
Posted June 14
Durham, N.C. — Service animal fraud is a growing problem across the country and in North Carolina.
Most stores are typically off limits for pets, but Kay Gunter’s trained service dog, Cruz, is an exception.
Cruz has been trained to pull grocery baskets and pay for items.
Gunter said there’s an ongoing issue of people pretending their dogs are service animals
"People do buy vests online and they do it intentionally,” Gunter said. "I saw a lady going into a restaurant one time and her dog had a vest that said service dog in big letters; no logo from the organization or anything.”
Canine Companions for Independence said this type of fraud happens often. While the organization provides legal assistance dogs, they're also fighting hard to stop the fakes.
“It's becoming an increasing problem and I think it's just because it's all too easy for people to acquire a vest,” said Jen Hanes, a trainer with CCI. “You can order one online very simply, put it on a dog and then take that dog out in public.”
Hanes said many people want to avoid fees and be able to keep their pets with them.
"Sometimes it's that they don't want to pay the fine or the fee to have the dog with them, or to fly the dog in the cabin, on a plane or the hotel fine or the car rental fine,” Hanes said.
Gunter says the fake service dog issue has created a backlash against people who need legitimate service dogs.
“Business owners need to know that it's OK to ask the person if that's a service dog,” Gunter said.
Under the American’s with Disabilities Act, it is a federal crime to use a fake service dog. Additionally, therapy and emotional support dogs do not have the same public access rights as service dogs.