From NY Dail News: Don't be the pet pest with the fake vest.
A growing number of dog owners are exploiting service dogs, using fake vests, tags and labels to bring their canine companions where they otherwise would not be allowed.
While this may rub some the wrong way, taking Fluffy out to dinner has deeper repercussions: it hurts disabled veterans and servicemen who in turn face issues bringing their real, licensed service dogs into public places.
Robert Misseri, the president of Guardians of Rescue, a New York-based organization that places military veterans with disabilities with free service dogs, told the Daily News that it comes down to a lack of regulation.
"Companies skirt the law," he explained. "As long as someone says they have an injury, like PTSD, these guys are capitalizing." Fake and imitation service dog vests can be purchased on eBay, ranging from $29 to $149.
Another loophole, he said, is that those with service dogs are not required to show ID proving their pet is legitimate.
"You can only ask two questions of them: what is your disability and what does your dog do for you?" he said.
Jack Garcia, a former FBI agent and current volunteer for GOR, agreed.
"People are going to restaurants thinking it's cute to bring their boutique dogs to the restaurant," the former narcotics agent, 61, told The News. "It's a trend that's becoming worrisome, since service dogs were created for people who are in need of these animals, like the soldiers who put their lives on the line."
Garcia now volunteers for GOR, helping Misseri crack down on fake service dogs. He told The News that the practice is not only hurting veterans, it could hurt the public at large.
"If you take an out-of-control dog and put him in a closed space, bad things will happen."
Misseri has a plan to "name and shame" those abusing the system, using photos sent in by concerned citizens to identify those with legitimate service dogs.
"We need to think of the people who are being victimized and abused," he said. "The people who are abusing this system need to look into their consciences."
The phenomenon has been in the news in recent weeks, with veterans in both Massachusetts and Long Island booted out after the owners of dining establishments said their service dogs weren't allowed in.
Both had licensed service dogs.