NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In this digital age, the internet is making it easier for people to falsely and illegally register their pets as service animals.
That also makes it harder on people who actually need them, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reports.
John Morrison and Tender, his service dog, have only lived together for about a year and a half, but they’re already inseparable.
“He’s like my best friend,” Morrison said.
Morrison relies on his service dog to help with everyday tasks that he may not be able to complete on his own, like picking up a pen, opening a door or closing a drawer.
Despite his wheelchair, Morrison says he does get questioned about whether Tender is a legitimate service dog because it’s become so common for people to falsely and illegally register a regular pet as one.
“One time we went into a hotel … and they wanted to charge us a fee for the dog … There was another time they wanted his shot record,” Morrison said.
Legally, however, businesses can only ask two questions — is this dog a service dog required for a disability, and what work or task is the dog trained to perform?
“We have been questioned for documents that we shouldn’t necessarily have to prove,” Carolyn Morrison, John’s mother, said.
Fake service dogs aren’t trained to accomplish any tasks or maintain a calm temperament. They can even distract dogs like Tender from doing their job. So the Morrisons were happy to learn Canine Companions for Independence was launching a campaign to “Stand Against Service Dog Fraud.”
The organization is dedicating September to teach people that “a service dog is more than a vest.”
“We hope that this campaign will give people pause and engage them to learn about what issues they are causing for recipients of service animals,” said Debra Dougherty, executive director of Canine Companions for Independence Northeast Region.
As for Morrison, he just hopes nothing will get interfere with him and support from his best friend.
It’s important to note there is a big difference between service dogs and emotional support animals. Emotional support animals only provide comfort or support and do not have rights outside of planes or housing.