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Pasco veteran, local nonprofit upset over service dog impostors

PASCO, Wash - An army veteran from Pasco who now uses a service dog said he’s disheartened to see people misusing the label of service animal.

Phillip Crutchfield spends over 13 hours a week training his dog Tango with a non-profit Service Peace Warriors, to help combat his post-traumatic stress.

“I couldn’t leave the house until I had Tango,” Crutchfield said. 

Those who don't need the support of a service dog are taking to online websites to get fake certifications and service vest for their animals.

Now state legislators in Virginia, Colorado and Massachusetts are cracking down on impostors who are trying to pass their dogs off as service dogs by pushing for new laws. 

Violators can now potentially a fine of up to $500 and a misdemeanor charge. Watson wants to see something done locally as well.

“My hope would be that Washington legislation would put something in play to where they would be able to shut down the organizations online,” Crutchfield said.

Crutchfield’s dog trainer Mary Mattox, president of Service Peace Warriors, said owners purchasing service dog vests is a real problem. She said they diminish her work to help better the lives of veterans and gives service dogs a bad name.

“It makes it hard because when they misbehave, less stores, hotels and public places are comfortable with real service dogs,” Mattox said.

Her nonprofit houses and trains service dogs for over 40 hours a week to ensure dogs are ready to go home with veterans and others in need.

Watson said without this service dog Tango, he would still be in his house barricaded away from public and would have several more sleepless nights.

Dogs like his are trained to help people with all abilities, including people in wheel chairs who can’t open doors and for people who are vision or hearing impaired.

If you'd like to volunteer with service dogs, visit their website.  or call (509) 539-7928


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