Really? That’s a “Service Dog”?
First and foremost I want to say that there are absolutely legitimate reasons for people to require the type of assistance that service dogs can afford them. Trained guide dogs for the blind, dogs like our Becca who was trained to carry a backpack for her wheel-chair bound owner, dogs who detect seizures and other medical conditions are a blessing to their owners and the community. I am NOT talking about these people or their legitimate service animals.
What I am talking about is fake service dogs or emotional support dogs or therapy dogs and owners who send away to one of those internet sites, buy a service dog vest or ID card, slap it on their Malti-poo or Great Dane, call it a “service animal” and expect all of the accommodations afforded legitimate service animals. I call that BS. Sorry, just because you feel guilty or sad leaving your dog at home while you go shopping or out to dinner doesn’t mean you can pretend they are a service dog and bring them to restaurants, to the movies, onto planes or into apartment buildings that do not allow pets.
Agencies regulating service animals or emotional support animals include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. But there is very limited regulation, no central licensing agency and no registration requirements for service animals. The lack of regulation is intended to protect the rights of the disabled but too many people are starting to abuse the leniency.
Almost anyone can ‘register’ their dog and get some type of Service Dog identification. There’s a ton of internet sites out there offering these “official” ID cards. What’s labeled a disability by the ADA is really quite broad. One site I looked at listed some examples of possible disabilities as:
- Physical weakness
- Speech Problems
Heck, I have asthma and if I drink too much wine I get dizzy – does that mean I can register Jack as my service dog? For $64.95, I sure can.
Again, let me state, I absolutely understand there are many people who need service dogs and I am thankful for the agencies that train these dogs to perform the necessary tasks to help these folks live a fuller life. But, there are many people who are claiming service dog status just to be able to take Fluffy with them everywhere. These people don’t understand, or are too selfish to realize the potential harm their behavior does to folks truly in need.
Real service dogs go through extensive training to not only learn their ‘service’ but to learn to be out in the world and undistributed by circumstances or events around them. Fake service dogs lack that level of training and are more apt to misbehave, bark, lunge, relieve themselves and create havoc, potentially harming their owner or an innocent bystander.
As more and more people bring their dogs everywhere, people with allergies or fear of dogs are having their rights infringed upon too. Yes, they can leave the restaurant or movie theater – but what about the airplane? One dog on a plane ok, but 3-4 – that could be pretty uncomfortable for someone allergic to dogs. And emotional support pigs, cats, birds? Really?
My main concern around this influx of service animals is that the fakes are ruining it for service dogs who are truly needed. When faced with the influx of these animals, business owners and the public become more and more skeptical of the need for service dogs. (The law limits the questioning of the legitimacy of a service animal to ask only if the animal is required for a disability and what the animal is trained to do.) Business owners are restricted in what they can ask the dog owner in the way of verification – they could face fines of up to $100,000 by restricting or denying service, so many of them just keep silent and let it go. The result is more and more animals lacking the proper training and a general public more and more skeptical of service dogs. That is not progress, that’s a setback for the disabled.
While I’m not in favor of more government oversight, I think I am in favor of licensing for Service Dogs – How about you, what do you think?
The Hidden Complications of Fake Service Dogs
Enough with the fake service dogs and ’emotional support’ pigs
Pets Being Misrepresented as Service Dogs
Fake service dogs: The harm caused by pet owners who break the rules
On the Consequences of Fake and Undertrained Service Dogs
What’s the Harm in Faking a Service Dog?