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Seen At 11: Man's Best Impostor? Fake Service Dogs A Growing Problem

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- They look like highly trained service dogs, but they're really fakes.

As CBS 2's Maurice DuBois reported, more people are pretending their pets are trained medical companions, which is creating a big problem for people who really them.

Phony tags are available for sale all over the Internet, where you can find just about every kind of fake badge, sash and vest.

There are documents, too. One, for example, claims the dogs are part of a U.S. registry, something that doesn't even exist. Another appears to be issued by the federal government. One website promises its bogus badges can help passengers get through "airport security."

"We've even gotten requests for doctors to say that dogs are service dogs, and that's just not something you can write a note for, like you did when you were little to get out of gym class," said Anne-Marie Karash, associate director of the Humane Society of New York.

"Just like anyone who breaks the rules. It ruins it for the legitimate needs of people who need their dogs," Karash added. "They're not just going to a movie with their dog because they think it's cute."

Brian Sabatino said he trained his dog, Pressley, for six months to be a service dog. He said he and Pressley could be at risk if they encounter a fake service dog.

"They didn't go through the training," Sabatino said. "Anything could set them off."

Karash said people aren't required to show proof that their service dog is properly certified, but with the rise of impostors, that will likely change, she said.

One organization that trains service dogs, Canine Companions for Independence, has an online petition urging the federal government to outlaw the sale of fake service dog credentials

Terry Tauber, a retired police officer, went undercover for CBS 2 with Ranger, a 75-pound collie, to expose just how easy it is to pass of an ordinary dog as a certified service dog.

"I was astounded about the ease of doing it, the lack of being challenged," Tauber said. "They didn't care."

Using phony credentials, a badge and a vest, Tauber took Ranger to dinner and a movie -- no questions asked.

"I think it should be illegal to produce an I.D. tag like that," Tauber said.

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