PALM DESERT, Calif. - A three-year-old is recovering after being bitten by a possible service dog at a Palm Desert grocery store.
The dog attack happened at the Albertsons on Highway 111 in Palm Desert. The attack has left many wondering how to properly identify a service dog.
"The next thing I know this dog is growling and I look down and it's lunging at my son's face and biting him," said Kelly Emmer, victim's mother.
Her son Leo had asked to pet the service dog, named Coco Man, before being attacked.
"He was absolutely wailing and bleeding all over himself and me," Emmer said.
The dog's owner said she's blind from her left eye and claims Coco Man is a 14-year-old service dog.
"It had a little vest on it and didn't have anything that says service dog, please don't pet me..it didn't look to me like it was a service dog," Emmer said.
"It's getting more and more difficult to identify the legitimate service dog and a fake service animal, but the fact that that type of aggression from a so-called service animal, that's a red flag," said Nick Teerones, director of training for Guide Dog's of the Desert.
The American With Disabilities Act does not require handlers to prove their dog's service training, businesses are legally only allowed to ask two questions:
1.) Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
2.) What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
"If you have a dog that's a pet and you're trying to get through the phase of getting him registered as a service animal and you know it's not one, as someone who has a three-year-old that's been bit, please don't do that, you are jeopardizing your community," Emmer said.
Having an illegitimate service dog can be considered a misdemeanor.
Emmer's said her son is still traumatized by the event and will be going to therapy soon.
Albertson's corporate office released a statement on the incident.:
"While we cannot comment on the specifics of this isolated incident, we comply with our legal obligation to allow service dogs who are individually trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Of course, the safety of our customers and employees is paramount. In the rare circumstance where a service animal displays vicious behavior that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, or the service animal is acting out of control and the handler does not take action to correct the behavior, the Store Director may exclude the service animal from the store."