California-based Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organisation that provides highly trained assistance dogs for people with disabilities, says "service dog fraud" is making it more and more difficult for genuine owners to be taken seriously...
It is easy to buy a service dog vest on the internet. Numerous websites offer products such as official harnesses and tags. In some cases they are sold with a note stating that it is the owner's responsibility to ensure their animal is properly trained, but there is no system of enforcement.
Erin, who preferred not to give her full name, lives with her boyfriend and their dog, Bo, in Los Angeles.
She went online to buy a service vest for her pooch, because she wanted to avoid the fees charged by airlines for non-service animals - in the region of $90-$150 (£60-£100) to fly, one-way. Unlike working animals, they must be restrained in a container for the entire flight.
Erin, who is not disabled, travels everywhere with Bo because she says she can not bear to leave him home alone....
Many travellers are accompanied by their pets because they have special permission, based on a doctors' letter and an official certificate. Unlike service dogs, emotional support animals (ESAs) are not required to have any formal training, but are allowed on board without an additional fee...
Still, she says, "I know more faux emotional support dogs than real ones."
01 April 2015
Some people use fake service dogs
Sadly, not an April Fool's joke: