Kansas service dog owners ask for tougher standards

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WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) -

Service dog trainers and handlers say the industry is too relaxed, and it's causing problems.

Veteran Ken Bower suffers from PTSD. He and his service dog Keno have put in hundreds of hours of training. It's earned Keno a special certification, as an official service dog. It means he can go practically anywhere Bower goes. Until recently it's never been a problem.

"I've actually been questioned if [Keno] actually an authentic service dog or not," Bower said.

Bower is among a growing number of service dog owners, who are frustrated and angry over untrained pets looking for special privileges.

"I've actually brought it up to a few people that had their dogs running on a table," Bower said. "They're like at a grocery store going and jumping on shelves, nibbling on food."

YouTube is filled with videos involving fake service dogs. In one video, the owner of a real service dog videotapes his dog resting peacefully when it's confronted by an untrained dog in the waiting room of a doctor's office.

In a matter of minutes, we were able to find several online businesses selling similar credentials. For less than $200, we could buy a certificate, vest, and card for our make believe dog, Zeus, and we were told, Zeus, would be an official service dog.

Because  businesses are often unaware of the differences, dogs like Keno are treated exactly the same as "emotional support dogs."

"There's a lot of education needs to be done," service dog advocate, Chip Neuman said.

Chip Neuman is the co-founder of Midwest Battle Buddies. His nonprofit group has helped to train Keno and dozens of other service dogs. 

"The whole thing needs to change. The laws are wrong. The standards are wrong," Neuman said.

Neuman is lobbying state lawmakers to build a database for official service dogs and create a certification program for dogs and trainers. But he says he isn't having much success.

Twelve states have passed laws making it illegal to misrepresent a service animal. In California, it could cost you a $1,000 fine, and six months in jail.

Check out these photos from across KAKEland snapped by our viewers, staff and local officials. Do you have pictures to share with us? Email them to news@kake.com.

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