Service dogs are identified with special tags, vests, harnesses, and leashes. These products should only be sold to dog owners that need them for their service animals, but unfortunately it is much too easy for people to purchase them and use them on animals that are not properly trained as service dogs. A non-profit group in California is looking to change that.
Northwest Battlefield Buddies is a non-profit that helps veterans in California with PTSD. They do this by partnering them with a trained service dog at no cost. The organization has begun to see an increasing number of cases where people purchased service dog gear online and put it on an untrained dog.
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This practice is very dangerous because these untrained dogs are not used to being in public places with large crowds. They are not trained to handle situations like this and things can get out of hand very quickly.
In order to help stop this problem, Northwest Battle Buddies has begun circulating a petition to try and get the United States Department of Justice to crack down on these fake service dog products. Shannon Walker, president and founder of the non-profit group, says that she sees canines in public places all the time that are definitely not trained to be a service dog.
She says that these dogs are easy to spot because many times they will act hyper due to the overstimulation. She says you might notice them tugging on a leash, barking, whining, or other behaviors that service dogs just don’t do.
Several other organizations are joining the fight as well. Canine Companions for Independence, another non-profit group, provides service dogs to people with disabilities. They are also circulating a petition, which currently has over 30,000 signatures, urging the Department of Justice to do something about the increasing issue on the sale of fake service dog products.
Oregon lawmakers have already proposed a bill that would involve local governments issuing official certificates to trained service dogs, and then employees at public establishments could ask to see the certificate before letting the dog enter.
However, not all members of the service dog industry are on board with a wholesale clampdown on the sale of equipment for service dogs. Some of these animals are trained in-home and do not go through the traditional classes that most service dogs take.
Similarly, emotional support animals (ESAs) bring comfort and calmness to people that have severe anxiety in public, and these animals are not required to have any formal training. In order to stop the sale of fake service dog products, many rules would need to be put in place to ensure that every person that legitimately needs these products could purchase them.