DENVER, Colorado — It's becoming more and more common to see dogs on planes, in stores and in restaurants. Service dogs spend months training to provide help to their fellow humans from everything to eyesight to emotional support.
But let's be honest — some of these dogs are working harder than others.
According to Laura Lee Brennan, who trains seeing eye dogs, it can take up to two years to train the puppies. From there, the dogs have to go through three more months of professional training before they can graduate to a service dog.
It's tough for the people who train day in and day out to see people passing off regular pets as trained service dogs.
"You know there's one person that ruins it for everyone so there's one dog that ruins it for the people that need it," she said.
Animal law specialist David Favre agrees.
"The problem is that other people have figured out that the requirements that have to be shown to take advantage of the law are so modest that they're able to slip themselves in if they're willing to be dishonest about what they're doing," Favre said.
In order to keep animals and humans safe, 19 states and a number of individual cities have passed laws making it illegal claim a fake service dog. The penalty in most states is a fine.
However, it turns out the laws aren't being enforced. The Now found only a single case where someone was ticketed for using an untrained dog as a service animal. A man in Nebraska was fined $50 on a misdemeanor charge in 2011.
Favre believes a federal registry of service animals could offer a solution.
"There is no answer until the federal government decides to do something at a very larger scale," Favre says.