Consumer Alert: Service animal Scam

Consumer Alert: Service animal Scam

Posted: Apr 28, 2015 8:06 PM EDT

By Danielle Serino

Posted by 19 Action News Digital Team

“Service Dog Scam” causing concern among disability advocates (Source: WOIO)

“Service Dog Scam” causing concern among disability advocates (Source: WOIO)

A mailing is going around promising that for a fee you can get everything you need to turn your family pet into a service dog.

It’s being called the “Service Dog Scam” and it makes cracking down on service dog fakers very hard.

“They are basically telling people to violate the law by doing this,” said disability rights advocate Lou Erteschik.

Erteschik got very upset when he saw a 15-page color brochure that’s arriving in mailboxes.

It claims customers can legally turn their family pets into service dogs if they pay anywhere from $69 to $197, plus extra for rush delivery.

They can receive service dog ID cards and certificates.

The problem is, there is no federal process for certifying service dogs.

“This, to me, creates a backlash and it sets back the disability movement because these people are obviously fakers and the people who use their service are likely to be fakers,” said Erteschik.

Legitimate service dogs help people every day.

But others try to claim that their family dogs are service animals, trying to get them access to public facilities

“At its core, it’s deceptive advertising and the least, at the worst, it’s another scam,” said Erteschik.

The head of the Better Business Bureau says the Oregon-based company behind the brochure has a history of get-rich-quick schemes.

“And it’s unfortunate that scams such as this and deceptive marketing lead people to believe that it’s okay to represent your family pet as something that it’s not,” says Gregory Dunn.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a business cannot require a person with a service animal to disclose what disability they have, or provide proof the dog is certified, according to consumer advocate Angus McKelvey.

“People are now being able to get fraudulent badges and certificates saying ‘this is an actual service animal to help me with a disability’ when there’s no such thing. They just want to be able to bring their dog into the restaurants or on the plane or everything else,” said McKelvey.

While a business owner can’t ask about a person’s disability, they can ask what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. If the dog misbehaves, barks, jumps or soils the premises, the owner can ask for the dog to be removed.