Wording on eBay listing for service dog vest raises ire

Wording on eBay listing for service dog vest raises ire
SEATTLE -- From heart-shaped potatoes to an alien in a jar, you can find just about anything for sale on eBay.

But the line between frightening and fraudulent compelled one local woman to step in.

Redmond resident Mickey Stuart, whose 13-year-old son relies on a trained service dog to mitigate the effects of his autism, says she was first alerted to a listing for a service dog vest on eBay through a network of service dog owners. There was outrage among the group, Stuart says, over the seller's description that the vest could be used for non-service dogs.

"Use this for your good puppy and take her shopping with you," the listing describes. "May have to play blind or stupid, but you love your puppy."

"I was offended and concerned," Stuart said. "People who pretend that their pets - their untrained pets - are service dogs are harming people who truly have disabilities and need their dogs."

The Stuarts' golden Labrador, Curly, is trained to search for 13-year-old J.T. if he runs off. The dog has also been schooled to disrupt some of J.T.'s autistic behaviors, Stuart said, including tantrums, aggression, and communication issues.

Passing off an untrained, unlicensed dog as a service animal could be grounds for a fine or even federal fraud charges in some cases.

"It's not right legally. It's not right morally. It's harmful to somebody who is disabled," said Stuart. "This isn't right."

Neither eBay nor Seattle police responded to calls seeking comment about this case

The seller of the service dog vest lists himself as a Seattle resident and says it "can also be used for a real service animal," although most of the comments on the item were less than friendly.

"Are you aware that what you're saying in your ad perpetuates fraud? And breaking federal and state laws?" wrote one commenter. The seller, who did not return repeated requests for comment from KOMO News, responded, "Are you going to break the laws and perpetuate the fraud?"

"I've seen stories in the news about people avoiding paying to put their pet under an airplane, but there's also a limit to how many dogs can ride in a cabin," Stuart said. "If somebody with a service dog is denied - with a true service dog - is denied their pet in a cabin, then they're harmed."