Fake Service Dogs Becoming Issue For Real Service Dogs, Their Owners

By Kathy Ritchie
Published: Monday, August 26, 2019 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, August 26, 2019 - 7:54am

Kathy Ritchie
Dr. CJ Betancourt's service dog, Freddy, sat for more than two hours during last week's meeting.

You’ve probably heard of a comfort animal or emotional support pet, yet they are not covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Still, we see these pets everywhere, and they’re not always properly trained. Some disability advocates are trying to come up with strategies to address this growing issue.

The Foundation for Service Dog Support hosted a meeting last week to talk about the challenges many service dog owners face.

Foundation director CJ Betancourt estimates that 95% of the dogs presented as service animals are not.

So, how are they getting in? "I think you have people in the community who want to fake and get their dog in and are learning what they have to say to get their dog through the door," she said.

Business owners can legally ask two questions: is this a service animal, and what task is the animal trained to perform.

Betancourt said pet owners are making up answers that sound legitimate, like “monitors asthma” or “tells me it’s time to take my medication.”

Richard Edwards was also at the meeting. His son is severely allergic to dogs; he has to be careful where he goes, even after a dog has left, "The dander’s there, the hair is there."

Passing off a pet as a service animal in Arizona can result in a $250 fine — Edwards said that’s not enough: "$500, $1,000, $2,000… you have to hit them hard," Edwards said. 

This meeting was likely the first of many more to come.

CJ Betancourt
Kathy Richie/KJZZ
Dr. CJ Betancourt with the Foundation for Service Dog Support says fake service dogs are a growing challenge.

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