Chicago man voices concern about fake service animals

More companies are tightening the leash on what they call "fake" service animals.

But is trying to pass off your untrained pet dangerous? One man says the simple answer is yes.

You've seen the headlines - Delta and United cracking down on service animals on board flights. The reason? A dramatic increase in customers bringing - or trying to bring - all kinds of animals into the cabin.

Delta grounded a peacock just last month. But for Philip Kirschner, the problem is personal.

Kirschner has relied on his service dog "Jumper" for 13 years and they go everywhere together.

A 911-first responder, Kirschner now deals with residual medical issues and Jumper was specially taught to lend him a paw.

Kirschner says more and more of what he calls "fake" service animals are making life a little harder for him and Jumper.

He says two Uber drivers recently blew him off after seeing him waiting with a dog and his issues with the imposters don't stop there.

“They go to restaurants, they're very disruptive, they'll snap at him quite often. And putting him into a defensive mode,” he said.

But let's go by the book. According to the "Americans with Disabilities Act" -- service animals - like Jumper - are defined as any animal trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. 

The ADA does not require animals to be professionally trained and limits the questions a store or business can ask the owner.

Some say those restrictions - or lack thereof - make it easy for anyone with a pet to claim they have a service animal.

“Putting a vest on your pet that says "service dog" does not make them a service dog. It's faking a disability,” said Jennifer Hack.

Hack is a professional service dog trainer. She owns "Dynamic Dogs" right here in Chicago.

“I think the issue of people faking service dogs and bringing their pets in public is one of entitlement. They feel they're entitled to bring their pet everywhere, but they're not,” she said.

But even with a growing flock of fakers - Hack says businesses have an obligation to uphold the law. 

“It's not fair for service-dog owners to be harassed, or to be questioned because of fakers,” she said.

And Kirschner hopes that pet owners take off the vests and stop faking.

“What you're actually doing, is you're hurting it for us,” he said.

FOX 32 reached out to Uber, which told us the experience described by Kirschner is disappointing and that Uber drivers agree to accommodate riders with service animals.

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