Fake service animals, real problems
INDIANAPOLIS — Dogs are stepping up to be not only man’s best friend, but often can also be a lifesaver. Our four-legged friends can help people who have disabilities, illnesses and emotional needs. Those dogs are given training and a job to care for their owners. They’re “service dogs.”
Service dogs are critical to help care for people who rely on their intelligence, their strong senses, their comfort and their loyalty. In fact, the business of service dogs, therapy dogs and emotional support dogs is a booming one. It’s also leading some people to take advantage of the need. Just one Google search for “service dog” brings up all kinds of businesses claiming to have the paperwork, credentials and props needed to turn your own dog into a “service dog.”
Mo is a trained and true service dog. He’s gone through intense training for a specific purpose. Like all service dogs, he’s passed high-pressure tests to become the dog given to a person with a need. Mo’s person is Walt Alfred.
At the age of 40, Walt was diagnosed with Type One diabetes. His body needed close monitoring. In fact, life became dangerous with fluctuating sugar levels. It was dangerous until Walt got Mo. “He’s literally with me pretty much 24/7,” Walt explained. Mo can alert Walt when his sugar levels go to extremes. “He knows before I do,” Walt said.
Service dogs like Mo are allowed to go into places that regular pets can’t. They can go into restaurants, grocery stores, schools and any business where the service dog’s owner goes – all to keep an eye on his owner’s well-being.
The booming business of fake service dog gear – like vests and credentials – can make life more difficult for people like Walt who rely on a real service dog. Bogus businesses will sell the “service dog” gear to anyone who will send them money. And that can make having a true service dog difficult for people like Walt.
Across the country the service dog “kit” industry is not regulated. There is no requirement of proof. It just takes a few clicks and your cash to get the goods.