BUFFALO, N.Y. -- An advocate for veterans who have service dogs says there's a growing trend of pet owners with fake service dogs.
Chris Kreiger, President of Western New York Heroes, says there are even websites scamming people into thinking they are registering their pets as official service animals.
Kreiger’s group matches veterans with services dogs. He has one himself, and he's concerned about this trend of people going to scam websites to get cards and certificates saying their pet is a service animal.
Kreiger says only miniature horses and dogs can be official service animals protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
He says to tell whether a dog is a service animal, pay attention to the behavior of the dog. A real service animal is not going to sit in a restaurant and beg for food, bark, or start sniffing the table.
"We do see a large flux of fake service dogs, if you will. It's disgusting because it does then ruin it for those who truly have service dogs. We run into it all the time. People who will come up and want to tell us a funny story, and the funny stories about how they went and bought this vest and put it on their dog because they didn't want their dog to stay in the car during the summer," says Kreiger.
Kreiger would like to see federal laws changed so that people who fake having service animals can be criminally prosecuted.
"I think it should be criminal to pose your dog as a service animal when it truly is not," says Kreiger.
He is also looking into what can be done at the local level, but says it's tough because you have to look at all the legal aspects. Bottom line, Kreiger says this trend hurts people who have real service animals.