Channel 11 investigation exposes service dog scheme



PITTSBURGH - You can't bring your pets with you wherever you go, but in a growing trend, people are abusing a system by pretending their pet is a service animal.

"This service dog scam works pretty good," says a man in a one video posted on YouTube.

Jim and Susan Wagner own Perfect Fit Canines in Pittsburgh and train service dogs for autistic children.

“To just put on a vest just so you can take your dog into a restaurant I think is committing a fraud," says Jim Wagner.

You certainly won’t have a problem finding vests, tags, and certification papers available for sale online.

Critics say that makes it easy to have ‘fake’ service animals look legitimate.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, people entering businesses with animals can be asked just two questions:  Is this a service dog?  And what is it trained to do for you?

The Forsyth family fought to get a service dog into their autistic son’s school.

They’re worried about how fake service animals raise the level of scrutiny they face every day.

“I just don't understand.  It kind of devalues what we have to go through.  This isn't easy, “ said Jen Forsyth.

No proof or papers are legally required for real service dogs, and while it’s a federal crime to use fake service animals, privacy laws make prosecution difficult.

There's been a national push by some groups to get the Justice Department to stop the sale of online service-dog products.

But others worry that stricter laws could also set back access and impact privacy for those with disabilities.