WOMAN SCARED ABOUT 'FAKE' SERVICE DOGS - Diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease 8 years ago, Terrie Heemsbergen relies heavily on her little helper.
Three years ago, Heemsbergen was issued a service dog, Ember. She said she heard about it from one of her students when she taught at Temple College and her neurologist was on board.
"She's alongside her all of the time," Ronald Nelson, Terrie's husband, said. "She steadies her and makes her feel good."
Ember is able to open doors, drawers and cabinets and help Heemsbergen re-gain her balance when she isn't steady. She even helps as an emotional support dog for any anxiety from Terrie's Parkinson's.
"One time, I fell in the closet when nobody was home," Heemsbergen said. "I called her and she immediately came and I grabbed her harness and she didn't pull me up, but she pulled me over so I could get up."
But getting Ember's help wasn't easy, Heemsbergen was denied the first time. A year later, she was approved and since then it's been daily training and regular check-in's from Ember's managing company, Service Dogs Inc.
Now that a trend of fake service dogs is growing, Heemsbergen gets questioned at certain stores. She and her husband said it's upsetting.
"I see this going on," Nelson said. "I hear people talking in the store, saying, 'Well, I've got this, I've ordered this vest from the internet and I've got it coming in for my dog."
One legislator is trying to nip the trend in the bud. House Bill 2992 was introduced this year in Austin and, if passed, would have made falsely presenting an animal as a service animal a misdemeanor offense with fines up to $300 and 30 hours of community service.
That bill never received a vote, meaning this trend will continue in the Lone Star State.
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