Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Carmel on the Case: Faux Service Dogs
It's common knowledge that federal law allows people with disabilities to bring their service dogs into hotels and restaurants, but some pet owners are taking advantage by buying bogus ID's to get their pets into places they otherwise would not be allowed. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case of theses faux service dogs.
WSVN -- We love our dogs. We dress them up. We take them for walks. We take them for rides on our bicycles. We even eat with them at outdoor restaurants, but all that isn't enough for some. They also want to bring their dogs into indoor restaurants.
That's a privilege reserved for service dogs that assist people with disabilities. To get around the law, some dog owners are buying tags over the internet that falsely identify their pets as true service dogs.
Howard Zeifman, Restaurant Manager: "We've even had dogs go to the bathroom on the floor."
Carmel Cafiero: "No!"
Howard Zeifman: "Yeah, and it's been a problem."
Howard Zeifman manages a South Beach restaurant that has been plagued by what he believes are faux service dogs, and he's sure his establishment is not alone. He says people are showing ID cards bought on the internet and the only way to know when they're bogus is when the dogs become disruptive.
Howard Zeifman: "When it really becomes obvious is when the dog starts to bark, or the dog is begging for food, or the people feed the dog from the table, or the dog is sitting in a chair at the table with his paws on the table."
All behaviors you would never see from a trained service dog.
I bought this ID for my dog on the internet. It reads, he is a service dog, but Gringo is blind and when in an area of the house he is not familiar with, he is lost. Even a disabled pet could be passed off as a service dog.
Virginia Jacko, Miami Lighthouse: "So, the definition of a service animal is a dog that is specially trained to work."
And Virginia Jacko should know. She is the CEO of the Miami Lighthouse for the blind. She relies on her service dog Kiernan to keep her safe and active. She worries these bogus ID's on house pets could erode years of advances for the disabled.
Virginia Jacko: "Who want to steal the rights of a disabled person? Would you steal someone's wheelchair so you could be first in line at TSA at the airport? Who would do that?"
True service dogs go though a lot of training.
Nick Kutsukos, Service Dog Trainer: "Jack will stay here as long as I'm here."
Nick Kutsukos and his wife Jeanneane train service dogs at their home in Jupiter.
Jeanneane Kutsukos: "Penelope down. Good girl. Good girl."
Nick Kutsukos: "A good service dog will prolong a person's life."
And while there is no 800 number to call to determine if a dog is really a service dog, people in the hospitality industry can ask what is your dog trained to do.
Virginia Jacko says she would not mind the question at all.
Virginia Jacko: "And I would say, I'm totally blind, thank you very much."
Clearly the use of fake credentials is a disservice to service dogs and the people who depend on them.
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