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Fake service dog gear hearing in Sacramento

You may wish to check out the February 24, 2014 Sacramento Bee article from the "At the Capitol" section by Alexei Koseff,"Capitol Alert: AM Alert: Fake guide dogs come under Senate scrutiny."

Fake service dog gear hearing in Sacramento.
Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Too many people in Sacramento are putting fake gear on their dogs to pass off the pets as guide dogs or service animals to sneak them into busses, light rail cars, trains, planes, and even various types of boats or cruise ships. And it's happening not only in Sacramento, but nationally.

The result is that people who use guide dogs because they have disabilities are troubled, especially when the fake guide dog attacks a genuine, trained and certificated service or guide dog in public spaces and in transit

For example, some highly trained service dogs are helping people with invisible disabilities such as the child with type 1 diabetes who is unable to speak and communicate when blood sugar gets too low because the child is autistic or has other disabilities. A recent news broadcast told of a child with Down's syndrome who is not able to communicate in specific words how he feels when his type 1 diabetes needs immediate attention. The dog can sniff out changes in the boy's blood sugar levels and alert others to take a blood glucose measurement and/or otherwise examine him.

In other cases of invisible disabilities, trained service dogs sniff out when the dog's handler is about to have an epileptic seizure, alerting the person to sit down so he or she doesn't suddenly fall over and break bones or fall into a dangerous situation, such as train tracks or in traffic.

The problem in Sacramento are the fake service dogs who are dressed like service dogs, but aren't trained

And when a blind person or someone with other disabilities enters the public space or transportation vehicle with a trained dog, the untrained dog in fake gear is liable to attack the real service dog. It has happened enough for the Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee to have a meeting here in Sacramento today, February 24, 2014 on the issue. "Informational Hearing: Fake Service Dogs, Real Problem or Not?"

The Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee has scheduled an informational hearing for 11 a.m. in Room 4203 of the Capitol building in Sacramento today to address the problem of service dog fraud. Though misrepresenting a pet as a service animal is already a misdemeanor in California, the hearing aims to educate the public and determine whether any policy changes are necessary, the committee office said. Also, you can check out the PDF file articles on today's meetings: 2/24/2014 Agenda [pdf], 2/24/2014 Background, Paper [pdf], and 2/24/2014 Appendix A,B & C [pdf].

The Senate Standing Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development meeting today in Sacramento on the problem of fake guide dogs

The Senate Standing Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development meets every Monday at 1:00 P.M. in Room 3191, State Capitol, Room 2053 Sacramento, CA 95814. However, always check the Senate File for any changes. What the jurisdiction is about are discussing bills relating to business and professional practices and regulations other than bills relating to horseracing, alcoholic beverages, oil, mining, geothermal, or forestry industries.

Committee Hearings for Monday, February 24, 2014 of the Business, Professions And Economic Development Committee is at 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. - John L Burton Hearing Room (4203) Committees: Business, Professions and Economic Development Show Agenda. Too many dogs in Sacramento and in other cities are being dressed to fool others into thinking that their dog is a trained and certified service or guide dog. But where are they getting the fake service dog gear without showing proof that the dog is trained?

And those with disabilities don't want to be forced to show identity cards to every retailer or transit employee that the dog is really trained and certified. You sometimes see people bringing tiny dogs in baby strollers into supermarkets in Sacramento, for example. And in some restaurants dogs are brought to outside tables, eat out of restaurant plates, or sniff other customers nearby. Some people are afraid of being bitten by strange dogs and then the owners walking away without identifying themselves to prove the dog has had rabies vaccinations, especially in public transportation, at parks, or at nearby outdoor restaurant tables where people bring their dogs.

The problem being discussed is when people dress their untrained dog to look like a service dog

Many people think only blind people have guide dogs, without realizing that people with invisible disabilities may also have service dogs, whether the person is deaf, has hidden health problems such as type 1 diabetes, epilepsy, or other hidden health issues that a dog can sense and sniff to warn the person that an attack is coming shortly or that the person's blood sugar is too low or too high. See, "Diabetic Alert Dogs."

It turns out not every guide dog you see on the street is actually helping a blind person. A growing number of individuals are dressing up their pets in fake gear to bring them where animals are normally prohibited, causing a headache for the disabled and businesses alike.

The panel today will be listening to the Sacramento community with disabilities , guide dog trainers and representatives as well as from the restaurant, retail and lodging industries. Among the concerns to discuss: untrained fake service dogs can become a nuisance, but businesses are not allowed to require proof of a service animal's legitimacy. People with hidden disabilities that are not obvious such as blindness or deafness may not want people asking for proof such as certification that a dog is really trained as a service or guide dog.

One of the big problems in Sacramento are young people on bikes who ride on the sidewalk instead of in the bike lanes and tailgate hearing-impaired or slow-walking senior citizens pedestrians trying to get to the supermarket or other appointments. Too often the bikes silently move up so close to the elderly person that if the wind blows the person's hat, and the senior's arm flings out to keep his/her hat on, the bike that is on the sidewalk right next to the senior or in back of him/her crashes into the senior, chipping or breaking a brittle bone.

Most cyclists on the sidewalk instead of in bike lines don't realize that many elderly people can't hear or see well enough to know they're being tailgated by bikes, skaters, scooters, and skateboards or other vehicles on the sidewalk, which is the only path pedestrians have to walk to shopping. But on today's agenda in Sacramento is the issue of fake service dogs. There is a problem when people take their dogs onto buses and the light rail or the Amtrak commuter trains or planes and boats/ships dressed in fake service dog gear.

The problem arises when the untrained dog doesn't sit quietly under the seat, but instead becomes restless as the vehicles move, and if someone with a trained service dog enters, sometimes the untrained dog in fake service dog gear will attack or growl at the real service dog, distracting the blind person or causing fear and disorientation. Trained service dogs are supposed to ignore other dogs and work with their handler to serve the person with the disability.

You have people claiming their dog is an emotional service dog there to prevent panic attacks. See, "NSAR Service Dog Certification - Emotional Support Animals." Do you have the legal right to have an emotional support animal? See, "How to Get an Emotional Support Animal." There also are, but much rarer, seeing-eye miniature horses for the visually impaired. Check out, "Guide Horse Foundation - Miniature horses for the blind." Miniature horses can live to be more than 50 years old, with the average lifespan being 30-40 years. According to guide dog trainers, guide dogs have a useful life between 8-12 years, notes the Guide Horse Foundation website.

The question is the dog trained to ignore other dogs and other people in transit or in a store or restaurant? Is the service dog certified? On the other hand, those who have trained service dogs object to constantly being asked by retailers and drivers or other employees to show proof of certification of the dog as a guide dog or service dog. And some people aren't aware that some dogs do serve as emotional service dogs. There's also a problem at airports when fake service dogs become unruly, including when the luggage-sniffing airport dogs or nearby. That's why a hearing will be held to discuss the issue.

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