Calif. ó Jim Power, a licensed trainer of guide dogs
for the blind from San Rafael, Calif., was visiting a
crowded Southern California theme park a week ago when
he spied "a 20-something lady Ö with a Chihuahua
on a leash." The small pooch wore a vest
identifying it as a service dog.
didnít particularly look Ö very legitimate,"
Power told a state Senate committee looking into what
the disabled community, dog trainers and businesses call
a growing problem: fake service dogs.
of the California restaurant, retail, hotel, apartment
and condominium industries testified that dog owners,
who donít want to be separated from their pets, are
abusing the Americans with Disabilities Act and other
federal and state laws by falsely identifying their
canines as working animals.
written laws that carry stiff financial penalties make
it difficult for business owners to question an animalís
credentials, unless it misbehaves or isnít
housebroken, they said.
service dogs, critics charge, can create health and
safety problems for the public and sully the reputations
of trained animals essential to helping people with
problem is not necessarily with the folks who
legitimately need service animals," said Keri
Bailey of the California Grocers Association at a Feb.
24 hearing of the Senate Business, Professions and
Economic Development Committee. "Thereís a
growing trend of folks who just want to take their pet
a result, "thereís not much" businesses can
do besides allow the animal inside, Bailey said.
"Otherwise, we face some pretty serious