Utah veteran says lying about needing a service animal makes life harder for those who really do

Posted at 9:39 PM, Mar 30, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-30 23:39:36-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A Salt Lake City Army veteran is upset that people are pretending to need service dogs and are making things awkward for those who really depend on these animals.

Ryan Baker and his black lab Junny are inseparable.

"Everywhere I go, she goes, without her I could not function in society and feel comfortable," Baker said.

Baker suffers from PTSD. He said his attachment to Junny is not the same as a loving owner and a pet. Their relationship is out of necessity.

"I can't be a normal person like you without my dog," Baker said.

So Baker is upset that there are people out there who pretend to have a service dog, just so they can bring their pet into various businesses, like restaurants.

"It's so easy to just get a vest online and walk around and tell people you have a service dog," Baker said. "It's just deceitful. It's wrong."

Businesses are having a tough time deciding who is legit and who is fake. Utah County is in the process of sending letters to all 1,700-plus restaurants in the county, informing them of their rights when it comes to allowing animals inside.

"I'm getting more and more inappropriate questions from people, such as: 'What's your disability?' That's rude," Baker said.

Baker said it's gotten to the point where he only goes to restaurants where they know him and Junny, like Shivers, where they won't question him.

Baker said most of the time, fellow customers don't even realize Junny is under the table.

"She watches out for me, I watch out for her," Baker said.

Legally, restaurant employees are only allowed to ask people with pets two questions: Do you have a disability? And, is that a service animal? Baker said it's time to change the rules.

"There needs to be stricter guidelines," he said. "I'd like to see something on my driver's license that proves that I have a service dog, and I need one."