Are some service dog owners scamming the system?

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Some dog owners are scamming the system - getting their pets access to restaurants and shops, as well as cashing in on thousands of dollars in tax credits - and giving legitimate service dogs a bad name.

They come back from war broken...

"I struggle with everyday life things."

Their injuries, both seen and unseen.

"I wake up and don't know where I am, I have flashbacks."

And these service dogs become their lifeline, able to bring back some semblance of normalcy.

"He's my little battle buddy."

But now, their way of life is under attack...from fakers.

"These dogs pee, destroy things, bark noisily."

"She literally had to chain it to the cart to walk around."

Aided by a growing online industry, taking advantage of loopholes.

"It's super easy, just a matter of going online to get this paper."

All while defrauding the government at the same time.

A NewsChannel 3 investigation uncovers just how easy it for these fakers.

Laurie Simmons reports, Tuesday at 5.


  • SD handler


    While your attentions may be good, these stories HURT the legitimate service dogs. You do two things. You give would be fakers a “how to”, and your story causes legitimate service dog handlers with invisible disabilities to have access problems.

  • The Don

    The people who scam are idiots to begin with. These dogs are not certified and are easily distracted by other people. The ones who are certified wear vest and collars that alert other people of there service. I have dealt with and seen the scam artist… your little yorkie or shitzu is not a service dog. Get real

    • SD handler

      Service dogs in the US are not certified. That’s the most common myth about our dogs. The certification registries are all scams.

    • AnnaBelle Lee

      there are many yorkie, shihtzu and small breed service dogs that are legit. I have a small SD myself. Small SDs can be diabetic alert dogs, seizure alert/response dogs, hearing dogs, PTSD or psych dogs, among others. Dont think just because a dog is small that the team is automatically ‘faking’. For some disabilities and work/tasks you dont need a big dog and some of us prefer the smaller ones, they work just as hard and just as well as the bigger ones!

  • OEB Service Dog Handler

    It is more common to find a “fake” service dog handler (i.e. not a legitimately disabled human with a task trained dog) sporting a simple and inexpensive vest with a “Service Dog” patch AND have a stupid ID card somewhere on that vest, than a real team. Our gear is NOT cheap and our gear, when we decide have our dogs wear it, is specifically for our individual disabilities. We do NOT have an “online registry” ID card anywhere on our dogs as we know the only documents we will ever provide are those that state the ADA and state access laws. What the media DOES need to “investigate” and report on, are the laws that the violators will be charged with when they attempt to pass themselves off as disabled and their dogs as service dogs. If more people new and began to worry they may be caught doing something illegal, they are less likely to do it. Most fakers don’t know there are laws that protect the REAL handlers nor do they realize that there are laws which can and will be enforced when passing off a pet as a service dog, or treating an Emotional Service Animal as a service dog and demanding access. Education is about protecting those who require the service dog and making sure people are not violating others’ rights by passing their pets off as service dogs are unwittingly taking their pet somewhere it does not belong.

  • Bradysdad

    Actually, while certification is not required by the ADA, many programs do certify that their dogs received training outlined by Assistance Dogs International. ADI is a world wide accreditation program that the legitimate SD programs support and subscribe to.

    • SD Handler

      Let me clarify. There is no legally recognized nor required certification or registration of service dogs in the US. While ADI does certify their dogs, the piece of paper means nothing. It is the combination of the handlers disability and the dogs training that makes the dog a service dog.

  • Kathy

    First, let me point out that NO Service Dog users are scamming the system. Your headline is misleading. It should say ‘some pet owners are scamming the system.’

    Next, People With Disabilities have a civil right to use a Service Dog. Service Animals are trained to do work or perform tasks to ameliorate the disability. They are not pets, nor are they ‘therapy dogs.’ They are neither certified nor registered. The Civil Rights Act of 1990, aka the ADA, spells out exactly why Service Animals, Service Dogs are not certified nor registered. This is NOT a loophole. Hundreds of hours were spent finalizing the law to protect PWDs who use service animals.

    I am personally sick and tired of service animals being attacked by stories like this one that blame, even if inadvertently, People With Disabilities who use service dogs. The only people complaining about this issue are those commercial dog training enterprises who sell service animals for some $20,000 – $30,000 each. The Department Of Justice reviewed their requests that the Law be changed several years ago, and decided not to change the Law, which would only enrich commercial dog trainers at the expence of People With Disabilities.

    Again, the issue is “People with pets are gaming the system.”

  • The Don

    Final comment…if u read the federal law and VA state laws on SD …there is a big loop hole on this issue so people who say it’s a service dog abide by the politically correct ways to use their SD by alerting others that in fact it is a SD. Not just because they want to bring muffy or Fefe into the store etc etc. !

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