ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- They are critical in helping the blind, visually impaired and others with disabilities. But did you know some people try to fake the fact that they have a trained service dog? It's something that's caught the attention of state lawmakers.
For Rene Latorre, man's best friend is much more than a dog. He's her guiding eyes.
"Bear is my guide dog who's three years old," said Latorre. "He's gone through extensive training. So he's very helpful in getting places, finding doors in and out, getting me around obstacles."
To Latorre, and others with visual impairment, the job of a service dog is pretty important, and one that only a specially trained dog can do.
"Misrepresentation of service animals has always been illegal. You shouldn't be doing that. You can't be doing that," said Latorre.
Latorre works for the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, an agency which receives a fair share of calls regarding people who try to pass off untrained pets as guide dogs.
"I get calls a lot from business owners who either have experienced people coming in with a dog who's very poorly behaved and they're wondering if a dog is really a service dog, or what they can do about it," said Latorre.
There's enough concern about fake guide dogs that New York lawmakers have proposed legislation to combat the fraud.
"This is really about the pets and animals used to help these people," said Senator Joe Robach.
Robach is a co-sponsor of legislation, which, if approved, would result in fines for those who violate it. The bill hasn't passed yet. Robach calls it a work in progress.
"You know this is sort of like someone parking in a handicapped spot who's not handicapped. This is sort of the same thing. We're trying to discourage it, bring awareness to it," said Robach.
"People are very attached to their animals. I don't think they realize the effect it's going to have on those of us who do have service animals," said Latorre.
Those issues are reason enough, for Latorre and others with visual impairment, and their companions, who act as another set of eyes.
"More needs to be in place to prevent that from happening," said Latorre.