CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - You've probably seen signs on local businesses welcoming service animals, but asking people to keep their pets outside.
Now, some pet owners are trying to game the system making it difficult for those who actually do need their companion by their side.
"Luca is my service dog. I have PTSD and TBI," said Kevin Trainor. He served in the U.S. military as a combat search and rescue operator. "Before Luca I was pretty lost. I'd never come out. I self-isolated. I couldn't even go to the gas station. I put off everything. The cupboards would become bare."
Luca is a trained service animal and you can tell that by much more than the badge he wears on his back.
"When it's hectic or loud, he helps me keep people back from me for my anxiety or PTSD or onset of anxiety. He sets the tempo for me."
But he says some pet owners are abusing the system, giving legitimate service animals a bad rep.
"They order the vest online and 'ta-da', I’m a service dog. It really detracts from those who need it."
Because of health privacy laws, businesses can only ask if the animal is a service animal and whether or not it is offering a service right now.
"Luca was just like he is now and a family had gotten up to leave and she had a Pomeranian pug mix and it was going crazy and it had a service dog vest on. I was like, why?"
However, if the dog is barking, jumping up on people, or doing anything else disruptive, businesses can ask the animal owner to leave.
"When you see an animal that acts like Luca does, chances are they're properly trained. Those that come in that pull at the leash, high angle wags, panting quickly, they're just as stressed out as the rest of the people."
Making Luca an ambassador for service animals.
"Actions speak louder than words. This is a service dog."