Service dog owners and trainers speak out about untrained "servi - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Service dog owners and trainers speak out about untrained "service dogs"

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WILLIAMSON COUNTY -- Some people are claiming their pet is a service dog when it hasn't had the proper training, and it's becoming a problem around the country and in southern Illinois.

All a pet owner has to do is go online, pay $80, get a certificate in the mail and put a vest on their pet.

It's something legitimate service dog trainers and owners have a big problem with.

Sam Hoekstra's dog Memphis is more than just man's best friend.

"I think the public is kind of confused on the guidelines between an emotional support dog, therapy or companion dog and a service dog," explained Hoekstra.

Memphis is a service dog, meaning he can go anywhere Hoekstra does, unlike therapy or emotional support dogs, because his service dog serves a purpose.

"A minimum of three unassisted tasks that are related to the person's disability," added Hoekstra.

Hoekstra got Memphis from This Able Veteran, a nonprofit organization focused on pairing veterans with highly trained service dogs.

Behesha Doan says that creates problems for owners who actually need real service dogs.

"It's more important that we honor what those people are actually living with and what the dog does for them than it does for us to want our own pets to be in vests and go everywhere with us," explained Doan.

Doan says business owners can ask two simple questions.

"Is this a service dog and what type of training has the dog had?" added Doan.

Questions she says are perfectly acceptable.

"Businesses don't need to be afraid of asking those questions for fear of reprisal or social shaming etc.," added Doan.

Hoekstra says that's because spotting a dog that hasn't been properly trained isn't hard.

"You can, you can tell the difference night and day that one dog has been trained and is ready to do their job day in and day out and the other one simply got a vest slapped on him," added Hoekstra.

For more information on rules and regulations regarding service dogs, click here.

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