Veterans fight back against fake service dog owners scamming the system

They are sweet, eager to please and ready to learn.

Squatch, Magnus and little Lucia are all “service dogs in training,” preparing to become the best friends and partners for veterans who need them.

“He’s my little battle buddy,” said Sgt. Matthew Miller, referring to his dog Magnus.

Miller, along with Sgt. Noel DeLisle and former Navy sailor Laurie-Lynn Wood, all served their country in war, and after returning home, they will be depending on these animals to live a normal life.

“She helps me pick up dropped items,” said Wood, of her dog Squatch.

“She will help me with sleep disorders, nightmares and night terrors,” said DeLisle, of his dog Lucia.

Now, a NewsChannel 3 Investigation is revealing these service dogs and the legitimacy of their training are under attack.

“It’s just outright enraging,” said Miller.

By conniving pet owners who…

“Just want to be able to take Fifi with them,” said Wood.

All parading their Pomeranians, Chihuahuas or Pugs around town with fake vests, fake IDs and fake papers.

So just how easy is it to fake a service dog?

I decided to find out, and luckily at home, I had two willing applicants for the job.

Sampson, who loves to play fetch, and has been known to eat anything, along with Hercules, a compulsive cuddler, who hates physical activity.

The winner– Hercules!

He is tiny and whiny, with an attitude, but none of that mattered when I went online.

With a few clicks of a mouse, I found dozens of companies willing to give me paperwork, patches and a lifetime subscription to their service dog database.

As long as I had a credit card—there was no vetting required.

“There are too many people exploiting it, and the businesses making the fake certifications, all they are doing is seeing a loophole and making money off it,” said Miller.

Just a few days later, I had a service dog vest and a service dog ID card in hand ready to take Hercules anywhere I wanted.

We spent the morning at Peninsula Town Center, and several local businesses had no choice but to let me in, because of restrictions put in place by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“There are only two questions they can ask—‘Is this a service dog?’ and ‘What is your dog trained to do?’” said Brandy Eggemen, who runs Citizen K9 Dog Training in Chesapeake.

“They know if they have that certification, they can bring their dog everywhere they go,” said Wood.

This fake certification is not only their golden ticket for public access, NewsChannel 3 also discovered it can be a gold mine for their tax returns.

According to the IRS…”the costs of buying, training, and maintaining” a service dog are tax deductible.

That includes “food, grooming, and veterinary care.”

Since there is no nationalized standard for service dog training, the IRS doesn’t make a distinction between the legitimate certifications Brandy provides, and these fake ones I got online.

“You are committing fraud,” said Eggemen.

“For someone to take advantage of the system like that, it’s just wrong; I don’t know how they can sleep at night,” said Wood.

Especially when those actions directly affect these veterans, because now, their real service dogs are coming under increased scrutiny.

“She gets looked at and questioned much more,” said Wood.

“We have a right to be angry. You are taking something that can help my family,” said Miller.

So what’s the solution? How can these fakers be stopped?

These vets want Congress to get involved, hopefully creating a legitimate certification process for properly trained service dogs.

So these battle buddies can continue to stand by their side.

12 comments

  • Kelly Morris

    OH… and the IRS DOES make a distinction between real service dogs and fake ones. A “real” service dog is trained to perform tasks that mitigate a person’s disability. If you aren’t disabled, and your dogs aren’t trained to perform tasks to mitigate a disability, they aren’t service dogs. Sure, you can try to cheat on your taxes. Plenty of people do. But the IRS DOES make a distinction and lying on your taxes is against the law.

  • Erica

    My dog was an emotional support dog for the Marines. I want to know how can I get him signed up again legally! Wavy tv can you help me?

    • KnowtheLaws

      You CAN’T sign him up legally because your dog is not a service dog, it is an ESA. A Service Dog is defined as a dog who is is trained to perform tasks to mitigate a disability. The ADA specifically states ” Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”

  • Billie JeanAnderson

    Disabled veterans are not the only people entitled to a service dog. There are other disabled people who are entitled to use these dogs. Not every news report has to be about veterans

  • Kim Merritt

    So, there’s no legal standard to define what constitutes a fully accredited service dog? If that’s the case , there is no fraud. You are simply taking advantage of a lack of regulation. Not saying it’s the “right” thing to do but if there is no law against it, it’s not illegal.

    • KnowtheLaws

      There is no accreditation, registration, or certification process for service dogs in the US. That does not mean there are no laws defining what qualifies as a service dog. The ADA states “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” That means the handler must be disabled per ADA definition and the dog must be trained to perform tasks to mitigate that disability. Most states also have laws that define service dogs and some even have laws that make it illegal to misrepresent a service dog, so these people who are buying these “certifications” and vests online are breaking both state and federal laws. What they don’t seem to realize is that these things do not make their dog a legal service dog and if they are called on it, these things will not serve as proof of service dog status in court. They would have to prove 1.) That they are disabled and 2.) That their dog has been properly trained in both obedience and disability related tasks. It takes hundreds of hours to properly train a service dog and any legitimate service dog handler is going to keep logs and video of the training as proof that the dog qualifies as a service dog according to the ADA definition.

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