Fake service dogs a disturbing trend

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A local service dog training company acknowledges there is a disturbing trend where people are disguising pets as service dogs to shop, travel or even get to the front of the line at amusement parks.

Sherry Shank of Elkhart started training service dogs because she has a disability.

The first dog she trained was her own.

It took her a long time. She needed a lot of patience and skill to train and officially certify Duke, her chocolate lab, as a true service dog.

She just doesn't understand why people would cheat the system.

"He's essential for me to be out in public and not get hurt," said Shank.

Sherry Shank's service dog Duke is her sense of balance.

Her Muscular Dystrophy may cause her to fall, but Duke helps her back up.

He learned the skills through credible service dog training.

"I've done everything I can do to make sure I'm covered within the law," said Shank.

But not everyone does.

A quick search online turns up hundreds of sites where fakers can purchase vests, harnesses and even service dog ID tags.

It's all part of a trend where people disguise pets at service dogs for perks.

"I guess there's always going to be people that try to get away with stuff and I don't know how that can be stopped," said Shank.

"People that are cheating the law have dogs that in no way shape or form are suited to be out in public," said Mark Halasz, Director of Midwest Assistance Dogs.

He wants it to stop.

His company spends countless hours patiently training dogs to aid the disabled.

He doesn't want fake service dogs to become common or acceptable.

"They behave badly and give folks like Sherry and the people that we train dogs for a bad name and it puts them at a disadvantage," said Halasz.

The Americans With Disabilities Act is open ended to protect the privacy of a disabled person.

So you can't ask someone what disability they have or even to demonstrate the dog's ability for you.

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