All access. It’s a perk often too tempting for some pet owners to resist. That’s why Canine Companions for Independence has launched a petition urging federal regulators to block the online sale of fake service dog certificates, vests, leashes and other products from official-looking websites that make it easy for pet owners to cheat the system.
Under federal law, working service dogs are allowed entry at places where pets are generally prohibited, including restaurants, grocery stores, businesses, apartments, even airplane cabins. The law doesn’t require legitimate service dogs to wear any special tags or vests, so the existence of websites peddling the phony certificates creates a market for people who may want to outfit their pet dogs to get a VIP pass where pets are not allowed.
The Santa Rosa-based nonprofit posted the petition on their website Monday as part of International Assistance Dog Week (IADW.) The group believes that when phony service dogs misbehave, it creates an undue stigma for the disabled.
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“As a result of this fraudulent practice, people with disabilities who have a legitimate need for an assistance dog face added discrimination and are being denied access to public places, which is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act” the group writes in a statement on their website.
Abuse of these ADA provisions has become a growing source of frustration for the service animal community. In May, the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit went undercover and spoke with pet owners who told us how easy it is to get around the law.
“If you say she’s a service dog they can’t kick you out,” one owner said, as he explained how he was able to pass his pet off as a service dog at a San Francisco restaurant.
CCI hopes to reach 10,000 signatures before sending its petition to the Department of Justice.