MIAMI - Service dogs provide lifesaving acts for their owners, earning them a special place in society. But some dog owners are taking advantage of that by registering their family dogs as service animals, offending those in true need.
Lisa Doering and her service dog Bruce have been a team for six months. Bruce helps Lisa cope with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"He'll actually watch my back, which means he's looking the opposite direction I am, so I don't have to worry about somebody coming up behind me," said Doering.
Bruce and Lisa are always working on new skills. Other "service dogs" may not get the same training. Local 10 found a one in the Broward County Courthouse wearing a service vest from freemypaws.com.
Their website asks you two questions: Do you currently have a physical impairment? Does your impairment limit major life activities? Answer yes to both questions and Free my Paws says you qualify for a service dog.
And for $200, they will send you a service animal ID kit.
Tracie Dulniak saw the website.
"It made me cringe," said Dulniak. "You have to answer two to five questions, and any way you answer those questions, it tells you you're disabled."
"People are taking advantage of that and abusing the system," said veteran K9 trainer Dennis Urrutia.
Urrutia and Dulniak have seen plenty of "faux" service dogs in restaurants, stores, and other places family pets aren't permitted.
"When I see other people with phony service dogs, they just throw a vest on them, it takes away from our integrity as well-trained service animals and as disabled individuals," said Dulniak.
One reason people may get the vests are service dogs fly free, a vest real or not saves travelers $200 a round trip.
"I don't like lying, so she is not a service dog so I couldn't do that," said passenger Nancy Rodriguez.
Doering just has one question when she see a faux service dog and its owner.
"Why are you doing that? Because you're taking advantage of a law that's designed for the disabled, not for you," said Doering.
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