Hundreds of families from across the country rallied in Washington D.C. today on behalf of service dogs and wounded military veterans. A Chesterfield mother and son were there, petitioning lawmakers to pass laws regulating the service dog industry.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WRIC) -
A Chesterfield family fed up with people using fake service animals took their fight to Washington D.C. Wednesday with hundreds of families from across the country to rally on behalf of service dogs and wounded military veterans.
Two weeks ago, we introduced you to David Rogers. He received a traumatic injury while serving in the military five years ago. He and his mother Lauri stood before dozens of people in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol Building and testified to lawmakers how vital their service dog, Jersey, is to David's health.
"They were very interested in David's story," Lauri says. "They wanted to know about his use of the dog and how Jersey has enabled him to recover."
On Wednesday, the Rogers', along with Petsmart and the nonprofit group Canine Companions for Independence, advocated that service dogs should be provided for every returning soldier who needs one.
"They're coming back with horrendous injuries that require the assistance of a dog," says Corey Hudson, the CEO of Canine Companions for Independence.
For Lauri, and many others, the rally was about something more.
An 8News investigation exposed there are no laws or regulations concerning service animals needed for the disabled. Anyone can buy a vest or badge online and transform their untrained pet into a service dog. This allows them to cut in line, receive special benefits and carry their pet wherever they want.
"We call it bogus and fake," Hudson says. "They don't care. They're just out to make money. It's as bad as somebody parking in a disabled parking spot."
Canine Companions for Independence says they've declared war on the fake service dog industry. They claim people with disabilities, like David, are hurt by impostors.
While in Washington, ABC 8News Senior Reporter Nate Eaton called, emailed, visited offices, and stopped lawmakers in the halls to ask their thoughts on the issue. None of them were aware there were problems with service dog regulations.
"If you have to be licensed to drive a car, that has a license plate on it on a public road. A dog who's a living creature and the person whose handling that dog should have the training and the qualifications that we require as drivers," Lauri says.
Canine Companions agrees.
"We petitioned the department of justice on several occasions," Hudson says. "It's shameful and we think something needs to be done/
The Rogers' say this won't be their last trip to the nation's Capitol and they plan to continue to advocate for laws and regulations