MOREHEAD CITY, CARTERET COUNTY - Some people with disabilities may think they have a service dog, but according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, many of the dogs don't qualify.
Instead, pet owners may be getting scammed by online web sites that offer "identification packages" that claim to certify or register a pet as a service animal. A package offered on the site Service Dogs America sends customers a special vest and ID card that labels a dog as a service animal for $249. The site claims the package helps owners "clearly identify your dog as a service dog and avoid awkward confrontations when entering public places with your dog."
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) a service dog owner must have a disability, and the dog must be trained to assist that disability. The web site specifically states simply calming a person is not enough.
The ADA does not have its own service animal registry.
Service dog owners in our state can register their animals with the state department of health and human services, but a spokesperson for the department said the registration is not mandatory.
"The registration is voluntary because the Americans with Disabilities Act states, 'A public entity shall not require documentation such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal,'" Philip Woodward, NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, said.
NewsChannel 12 contacted the ADA to find out why the web sites are not regulated, but did not hear back.