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SACRAMENTO - People who rely on their service dogs complain about a rising number of pet owners who buy phony vests on the Internet so they can take their dogs into restaurants and other businesses.

"It makes me feel unwelcome when I show up after they've just had a dog that urinated on the floor," Nancy Sawhney said. Her service dog "Becky" underwent extensive training with Canine Companions for Independence to assist her in a wheelchair.

Sawhney was among those speaking at an informational hearing held by the California State Senate's Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development.

"There's been a very, very large upswing in people presenting their dogs as service animals," Eric Holm, president of Guide Dogs for the Blind, testified.

Several witnesses pointed out there's little the Legislature can do to stop the abuse because state law is superseded by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act which prohibits business owners from challenging the legitimacy of a service animal.

"My interest has been for the last two years to get the attention of the [United States] Department of Justice and have some dialogue about this issue," Corey Hudson said, who serves as Chief Executive Officer of Canine Companions for Independence.

Anna Krieger of Disability Rights California suggested the state could undertake an educational campaign and require those who sell products for service animals to include disclaimers about the proper use of the products.

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