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Advocates want 'fake' service dogs to lie down and stay out

If we haven't done it ourselves, we have all seen it done: As we circle the grocery store parking lot for an empty space, a customer who clearly has no disability -- and whose vehicle has no hang-tag or special license plate -- pulls into the accessible parking space next to the door. When challenged by another customer, the miscreant replies, "I'll just be a minute!" and disappears inside.

That driver, of course, risks getting a ticket or getting towed. In New York City, there are no designated accessible spots, but parking curbside without a permit will almost certainly get a car towed and will cost the driver in fines and impound charges.

More infuriating than the person who ignores the law is the person who abuses the law. This is the driver who had a legal parking permit when he was driving his grandmother to and from appointments; she had a permanent disability and could only travel by car. When she died, though, the permit had not expired. So the grandson held onto it and used it "in a pinch."

Advocates for people with disabilities have a new challenge to add to the accessible parking hogs. Airline passengers and others are putting service dog gear on their pets in order to take advantage of the "perks." The service dog breeding and training organization Canine Companions for Independence says the problem is so bad that the U.S. Department of Justice should step in.

CCI points out, for instance, that while a motorist will get a ticket or be towed for parking in accessible parking place, there is no fine or penalty for passing off a companion dog for a service dog. And unscrupulous merchants make it easy by selling patches and vests to anyone who will pay for it.

We'll continue this in our next post.

Sources: 

Disability Scoop, "Fake Service Dog Gear Creates Problems," Kate Santich, Aug. 12, 2013

New York City Department of Transportation, "Parking Permits for People with Disabilities," accessed online (www.nyc.gov/dot), Aug. 21, 2013

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