Fake service animals becoming more common, so are penalties against them

The internet is making it easier for people to buy fake service animal vests to get their animals into places they otherwise couldn't go.

SAN ANTONIO- The internet is making it easier for people to buy fake service animal vests to get their animals into places they otherwise couldn't go.

Texas is one of 19 states discouraging people from doing this, but it's getting even more difficult to spot the real from the fake.

It takes about 2 years and nearly $40,000 to train service dogs according to experts. They're allowed to go anywhere the general public goes, as long as they're accompanied by a disabled handler. Passing an animal off is as easy as buying a fake vest online.

"This is one of the tricky things," Sandy Merrill, with Guide Dogs of Texas, said. "A store owner can say 'is that a guide dog or service dog and what tasks do they do,' they're not supposed to ask other questions."

That's because it's illegal to ask anything more. There's also no certificate that verifies a dog's training or lack thereof. Although Merrill said business owners can tell if they pay close attention to the dog.

"A dog that isn't really a service dog or a guide dog, they're not going to behave like one," Merrill said. "If the dog is acting poorly or destroying things in the store or is dirty, that store owner under the [Americans with Disabilities Act] has the right to ask that dog and person to leave."

Merrill also said if the dog is barking or climbing on things it's a giveaway. Guide dogs typically don't bark and keep their paws on the floor. In Texas, its a misdemeanor to pass an animal off as a service dog and if found guilty, it's punishable by up to $300 and 30 hours of community service.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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