Law professor: Service dog industry in U.S. is largely unregulated, making people vulnerable to scams

Updated: Jun. 26, 2020 at 11:31 AM EDT
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(WALB) - Following a WALB investigation into a former nonprofit accused of fraud, the legal side of service dog training has come into question.

David Favre is a law professor at Michigan State University who focuses on animal law.
David Favre is a law professor at Michigan State University who focuses on animal law.(David Favre)

A law professor at Michigan State University said he believes the service dog industry is sort of a “wild west” in the United States.

Animal law professor David Favre said the U.S. has virtually no regulations about who can provide service dog training.

He said he has heard of about a half dozen cases of service dog fraud, most of which were committed over the internet.

Favre explained that families in need find who they think is a trainer, pay them the $20,000 or $30,000 it can cost for a service dog, and then either don’t ever get a service dog or get one that’s not trained well.

Favre said the U.S. does not have a database where families in need can confirm someone really is a qualified service dog trainer.

He said there are some things people can do to keep from getting taken advantage of. That includes visiting the trainer’s facility and finding and talking to former clients before you send any money.

“That word of mouth, of networking between people who have the need and have the experience with an organization, is the best way forward, not searching the internet,” Favre said.

It would be difficult for the U.S. to institute some sort of national licensing program, according to Favre. However, he said schemes like these can fall under broader criminal umbrellas, including fraud.

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