Experts say there's a scary new trend in the world of service do - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Experts say there's a scary new trend in the world of service dogs

Experts say there's a scary new trend in the world of service dogs

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It's a problem local experts say they are seeing more of, fake service dogs.  People want to bring their pets with them to businesses so they slap a vest on the dog and go anywhere they please.

It is illegal to pass your pet off as a service dog but the folks at Midwest Assistance Dogs in South Bend say it's incredibly hard to enforce, especially as people find loopholes.

Sherry Shank said, "I just think it's inappropriate."  Shank has muscular dystrophy. Her dog, Duke, is a service dog who helps her with balance.  She thinks it's vital that a dog be trained if it's going to be in public. "If the dog's not trained properly it can cause all sorts of problems."

Shank is also a dog trainer for Midwest Assistance Dogs.  She is currently training a German Shepard named Tika.  "We try to get them to a point so they can assist their person and so that takes away from it when somebody takes a dog in and it's just a pet."

"If someone brings a fake service dog into the public and the dog creates a problem it reflects badly on all of the legitimately trained service dogs," Director of Midwest Assistance Dogs Mark Halasz said.

But how do people get away with fake service dogs?  Halasz says it's fairly easy.  "You can go online and get the same vest with the same identification that we use."

And Halasz says you don't have to provide any proof that your dog really is a service dog.  The same goes for getting certification cards online.  "There are now organizations and a growing number of them that will issue certification cards," said Halasz, "it's an easy way to make money."

McCarthy's on the Riverwalk Manager Phyllis Kelich said this trend is alarming.  "I don't want an untrained dog running loose in the restaurant.  First they could have an accident, they could attack a person."

Until something that extreme happens Halasz fears nothing will be done to change the laws.  "It's frustrating and it's also scary."

Halasz said according to the ADA law you can legally ask a person if they have a disability and if their dog is a service dog.  Halasz said it's pretty easy to lie and just answer "yes."  It is against the law to ask someone "what is your disability?" and "show me how your dog helps you."

There have been several proposals presented to try and make changes to the law, according to Halasz, but he said there has yet to be a proposal that strikes a good balance between safety and privacy.

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