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Cracking down on service animal imposters

Posted at 6:58 PM, Feb 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-22 18:58:30-05

New York is looking to crack down on those who pretend that their pets are service animals.

Service Animals are used in airports, restaurants, shopping malls and around the house. However, it turns out that virtually anyone could give their pet the appearance of a "service animal."

It is as easy as logging onto the internet. Just on Amazon.com, there are pages and pages of service dogs vests, harnesses and ID cards for sale.

Cindy White, who has used a service dog for years, has learned first hand that the imposters make it harder for those who actually need a service animal.

White was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. "He's basically for walking, balance and if I'm in a wheelchair, he'll pull the wheelchair," she said.

Watching imposter service dogs can be hard for her.

"I get really aggravated because I depend on him, to motivate, to maneuver my life," she explained. "It effects me, because then I'm questioned and thrown out of places. "

White also trains service dogs with Canine Helpers for the Handicapped, Inc. That is the organization that provided her with Jesse.

White said true service animals receive extensive training that can last years. They are trained not to react in public.

Fake dogs can even be a safety risk.

"There's been times when I was out, and somebody with their supposed service dogs barked and snapped at mine," White explained.

The New York Legislature is looking into a new law to weed out the imposters. In it, only certified groups and trainers could purchase and then provide vests that would identify service animals.

Advocates also want to make it easier for businesses to be able to ask for service animals identification.

"I would like to show my ID to show that he's a service dog, versus somebody that doesn't have a legitimate service dog," White said.

Service dogs can cost from $15,000 to $25,000. Those working on the legislation want to push to make that covered by health insurance.