Service dogs: Real or Fake?

Posted November 15, 2013
Updated November 18, 2013

Did you know you can break federal law with your pet? Lots of people are guilty of it – some intentionally.

They're buying service dog vests for their untrained animals to pass them off as real service dogs. Why? To get their pets into places they're not allowed, like restaurants, grocery stores, even on flights!

This issue is close to me. Many of you know I'm a volunteer puppy raiser for a group called Canine Companions for Independence.

The dogs go through years of specialized training, and hopefully graduate to become working service dogs for someone with a disability, someone who needs a dog to help with tasks.

The abuse is creating problems for those who really need the help of a legitimate service dog. They could be creating the right opportunity for a potentially dangerous distraction to real service dog.

WRAL 5 On Your Side Service dogs: Real or Fake?

Monday at 5:30, we'll review the rules, the blatant abuse of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the confusion about service dogs versus therapy dogs.






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  • james27613 Nov 21, 2013

    Often my fellow store workers will ignore the dogs, large or small, even play with them!

    All it takes is one dog to get an injury, we are a working warehouse, and it can snap at an innocent party.

    "Child attacked by dog at (Fill in your company name),
    Breaking News, Chopper 5 on scene, stay tuned"

    It is not worth any sales when a child or adult gets bitten.

  • james27613 Nov 21, 2013

    Good story. I work in a large big box store, have no problem asking customers if their dog is a service dog, often they say no, he is my dog. Ask them to take the dog outside, they often have an attitude problem, 'I bring him in (fill in blank or insert a competitor store) and nobody cares.

    House rules, sign posted on doors, no pets allowed, service dogs only.

    Problem is the dogs can't read the signs.

    Had one guy bring a dog into the store, dog made mess, old man later slipped in it and fell to the floor, having recently had hip replacement. Lucky he did not break any bones.

    Two guy had their pair of American Pit Bull Terriers, nice animals on dog leash but not in my store, my manager tried to reason with them, 'we're going to (your competitor)!'
    I invite you do to so.

    Often it is not the dog but the owners.

    Sure many in my store ignore the dogs or even play with them,
    one lady brings a kiddie stroller in and the dog is all dressed up in a pink outfit!

  • cmanley1142 Nov 21, 2013

    Hello, it bothers me that you are able to voice your opinion without knowing all the facts. I do have a service dog that I have trained myself for my 82 year old father who is hard of hearing. I have trained professionally and personally dogs for years. I worked for Henrico Police Department through a kennel I worked and lived at years ago and I am perfectly qualified to train my own dog. Why would I pay someone else or purchase a dog for an unbelievable amount of money when I can do it myself? My dog is registered as a service dog through my vet and is a "hearing dog." She is well behaved and alerts my father of someone at the door, phone ringing, etc. and goes everywhere with him in his wheelchair. If she was not allowed to go with him, he and she wouldn't function normally for them on a daily basis. Please make sure that when you do voice YOUR opinion you take in consideration ALL issues. Thank you.

  • orionsune2 Nov 19, 2013

    I see much hysteria on the comments about people bringing "fake" service dogs into public places. Let me ask you a question. Why does it matter? Are you afraid of dogs? Do you think you'll catch some alient blood pathegeon and die a horrible and painful death or something? Are you afriad they will attack you? All completely baseless and irrational. Why does it even matter if there is a dog in walmart? Granted as long as they behave. There are tons of retail outlets that welcome customer's pets with open arms, like JR Outlets, Thrift shops, Pet stores (obviously), and I don't remember the last time I heard of something being bitten or catching a disease from an animal in the JR or Pet store... People, stop reacting so blindly to whatever WRAL spoon feeds you, yeah?

  • orionsune2 Nov 19, 2013

    Is this a news organization or a blogging site? Did something actually happen regarding a service dog? If so where is the report on that? Otherwise, please remember, you are a media news outlet not a blogging site where you share your opinions. With that said, now why is this an issue? Is this a rampant problem or are you guys just bored and have nothing better to do? Why are you fear mongering people like this? Now simple minds will perpetually question every "service dog" they see. This is completely irrational because not all service dogs are identified by vests, etc... not all service dogs are for blind people... This is absolutely ridiculous and highlights the uselessness of our media.

  • Gen1 Nov 18, 2013

    There is a website that sells the cards and vest for you to be able to take your pet anywhere. I know people who bought them so they could take their pets with them everywhere they go. This is just wrong!!!!! I tried to tell them the difference and they would just say it makes them feel better for their dog to be with them. Some people you cannot tell them anything!

  • Student Nurse Nov 18, 2013

    I saw a suspicious "service" dog in Walmart today. He was a Cocker Spaniel-ish dog that clearly had no working manners: he pulling at the leash, distracted by the people walking by. He was outfitted in a vest with paramedic patch on it.

  • lolamarigolda Nov 18, 2013

    FairPlay.... public shaming works wonders on the public fakers. Just be aware that any breed can be a real SD.

  • jcthai Nov 18, 2013

    TwoWheels, what about it? If a dog is a service dog in training, then OF COURSE, it should be allowed all the rights and privileges of a service dog. How else, are you going to train them? Duh?

    WRAL: I hope the story includes how to report fake service dogs to the appropriate authority.

  • jcthai Nov 18, 2013

    When people pull stunts like this, it makes society have to introduce more government control. Clearly, we are headed towards registration of service dogs, and requiring proof before purchasing a vest. Sad.