Michigan, other states cracking down on pets passed off as service animals

Posted at 11:14 PM, Oct 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-01 09:36:14-04

Service animals are a matter of life or death for some people. But, for others, it’s just a matter of having your own pet with you at restaurants, events and even on planes.

More than a dozen states have taken notice and are starting to crack down on people pretending their pet is a service animal.

"As long as your dog behaves, it’s no big deal," said Joe Schuette, a Detroit resident.

It’s become a common trend: people buying costumes online, pretending their pet is a trained service animal.

"You’re not going to stop someone from buying it on Amazon, you can buy it on something else or overseas," said Schuette.

To be a trained service animal, it requires months -- even years -- of hard work and training.

"We always joke about it, except our dog would never behave," said Schuette.

Professor David Favre at Michigan State University says fake service animals can be dangerous.

“The non-service dogs animals are not really trained. They are no level near the amount of training real service dogs are. So, you will have problems of noise and barking and possible biting,” said Favre.

A bill recently passed in Michigan making it illegal to have a fake service animal.

“It’s a misdemeanor, a low level crime. Possibly 90 days in jail and a fine,” said Favre.

Favre says right now, there’s no state or federal law requiring a person to prove to a business their service animal is legit. 

"We have so many things we need to spend money on in this state --  that’s not top of my list at all," said Schuette.

Even though it is legal to bring pets onto airplanes as long as they meet the airlines guidelines, some travelers still wonder if the service animal is legitimate.