NEW JERSEY 101.5

A growing number of Garden State residents are trying to pass their pet dogs off as service animals so they can take the canines with them when they go to restaurants and malls. This according to law enforcement officials and advocates for those with disabilities.

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Some individuals are even buying service animal vests online, to make their dogs look more authentic.

"This is a problem because when any dog misbehaves in a place of business causing a disturbance or having an accident, it can cause a shopkeeper or business owner to then be concerned about the behavior of a legitimate service animal that may be entering the facility," said Jim Kautsch, the president and CEO of The Seeing Eye in Morristown, the oldest existing guide dog school in the world.

He says legitimate service animals go through a substantial amount of public access training so they behave well in a public facility, behave well around food, and around children running back and forth.

"The average animal doesn't get that training and doesn't necessarily behave to that standard," he said. "The message to people who are pretending their dog is a service animal is simple - follow the law - it's illegal to attempt to claim that animal is a service animal when it isn't. When people pretend their pet dogs are service animals so they can bring them into stores and restaurants it causes people to paint misbehaved dogs with a broad brush."

Kautsch also points out genuine service dogs aren't required to wear a ID vest, so if you see a dog in a store without one, it doesn't necessarily mean they are an "imposter."