Really? That’s a “Service Dog”?

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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.
 
Service Dogs

 
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:
 

  • Asthma
  • Physical weakness
  • Diabetes
  • Dizziness
  • 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?
 

Additional Readings:
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?
 

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19 Comments

  1. Did you hear the story about the family that had to get off the train, because their son had an allergic reaction to a dog on board? I don’t know much of the details beyond that everyone on the plan sounded pretty ungracious.

    When I read the story, I wondered if the service dog was a real one or did the owner send away for faux papers. You’re right, these fake ones are ruining it for legit ones, because now, whenever I see a service dog, I wonder.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…5 Reasons Dogs Eat Their Own PoopMy Profile

    • I do the same – I hate being suspicious, but…
      mkob recently posted…Really? That’s a My Profile

  2. I agree with you! I do have a FB friend that has a diabetic alert dog and it is amazing what that dog does for her.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Hat’s And PuppiesMy Profile

  3. As with so many things in this country. There are enough people who abuse a good thing and then it will be stopped. So sad, really.
    Emma recently posted…Finally An Indestructible Cat Toy #ChewyInfluencerMy Profile

  4. Ah the law of unintended consequences. When they wrote any of the laws that permit service animals they did not consider abuse. And so it goes with government. They make laws that can be abused and the rest of us are left to live with it. I am not for licensing. Licenses are just taxes with a fancy name. I would rather redraft the laws to let businesses decide if they want to allow service animals. Some may not, but my guess many will. Then the customers can decide if they want to support that business.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Third Child Syndrome – Barks And BytesMy Profile

  5. I’m all for the licensing of legitimate service dogs. And, like Kimberly, I seriously wonder about every service dog I see these days. People have just become so self-involved these days that they either don’t realize the harm they’re doing or they realize it and just don’t care. It’s truly sad for all of us.
    Callie, Shadow, and Ducky’s Mom recently posted…Life Surrounded by HopeMy Profile

  6. It’s always the same, people stretch and fake it to the max and then others who really need help have to pay for… As much as I need Easy on my side, I have to accept that he is not allowed at some places… I never would pretend to be disabled just for a shop visit… that’s poor somehow :o(((
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog NOT WORDLESS BUTT WEDNESDAYMy Profile

  7. We saw a “service dog” when we were forced to shop at Walmart the other night. It was so obvious that this was no service dog. It was yapping and I had to tell the lady her dog was eating trash off the floor. SMH
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Emergency Weather Update #BFTBNETWoofWeatherMy Profile

  8. I have my third service dog – a seizure alert dog. I have been harrassed to such an extent throughout my life that as far as I am concerned, ANY dog that is well-behaved should be able to enter an establishment! I have a problem when a “service dog” who has entered barks or lunges at my service dog, which obviously means it is not a service dog. This is contrary to what most of you are saying, but the shoe IS on my foot. Finding a lawyer to take a case has been IMPOSSIBLE. I have been thrown off planes, and told to leave establishments. It has been a constant battle, even though my dogs have ALWAYS been perfectly well-mannered. It’s pretty easy to spot a service dog from a pet from the way they behave. And when I am asked for an “ID,” I do explain that anyone who shows one definitely does NOT have a real service dog. From one who has a service dog, I do wish the government would issue ID’s. That said, they probably consider it discrimination and cannot figure out how to weed out the veracity of claims. It was like with the AIDS epidemic early on…….. how much money justifies doing something before the fact? It would cost the government more money to have a department to license these animals and THEY are not getting sued over it – the business owners are. Cheaper for them to stay out of the fight. So I now live in a small town where people are aware of my dog; thus I (usually) do not encounter discrimination. This town is soooooooo nice that the first thing people do when they see him is smile, and then something pleasant comes out of their mouths. Often times people look at me in distain and feel it is appropriate to start yelling at me. When I do encounter discrimination, I scream bloody murder and threaten them with the law and a lawsuit – not that I will be able to do anything about it. BTW, I recently heard on t.v. (not verified) that only service dogs and small ponies are ADA approved. But there used to be monkeys……… And about allergies – One of the most insulting comments I got was in a bathroom at a movie theater when some woman said her grandson had allergies and therefore I should not be allowed to fly on a plane with my dog. Response – “He can take a pill!”

    • It’s for folks like you with legitimate, well trained service dogs that are hurt the most by these fakes. I don’t know what the answer is – I guess I just wish people were more considerate and thought about they impact of their deceit.
      mkob recently posted…Really? That’s a My Profile

  9. I would be ok with getting rid of the whole system and allowing businesses to decide for themselves to allow dogs in general into their establishments.
    If a dog is under voice control and is well behaved then they can stay, if a dog is out of control and the owner is a irresponsible pet owner then they should be kicked out.

  10. But that being said, yes… I hate all of the fakers and abusers of the law and I know a few people who’s pet dogs are registered as “emotional support” dogs. They of course extremely poorly behaved and ill mannered.
    DZ Dogs recently posted…Recall Training GamesMy Profile

    • I think most every dog could be classified an ’emotional support dog’ – isn’t that part of the reason we have them to begin with?
      mkob recently posted…Really? That’s a My Profile

  11. It makes me so upset when people do things like this. It ruins it for the people who really need a service animal!! It is such a wonderful thing that these dogs do and it makes me so mad that someone would take advantage.
    Julie recently posted…Stuff and ThingsMy Profile

  12. “Fake’ service dogs are a huge problem. Too many veterans with service dogs (as one example) have been hassled when in fact their owners truly need their help. It is only bound to get worse as people feel entitled to bring untrained companion pets on airplanes or in restaurants as their “emotional therapy dogs.” Until the ADA can either clarify the rules or set up a registry, this issue will continue to be abused and the disabled will suffer the most. 🙁

  13. Too often is a good thing tarnished by those trying to take advantage. Any Service Dog should earn the name by proper training with a authorized agency/organization.
    Wooftastic post!
    CEO Olivia
    CEO Olivia recently posted…Epi-Warrior RileyMy Profile

  14. As usual, people abuse the system and ruin it for those that really need it. I tend to agree about licensing – I’d hate for more regulation but something needs to be done to help the people that legitimately need it.
    Jan K recently posted…FitDog Friday – Almost Ready to Move OnMy Profile

  15. I have seen so many fake service dogs lately with all kinds and colors of vests. Some have rushed up to greet me, others have lunged or growled at Haley. The real one I saw not too long ago was on a flight with me and seated directly behind me. She spent the entire flight right beneath my seat and I never heard a peep out of her. It’s pretty easy to tell the real ones from the fake ones.

    Besides the very important point you make about people that really need their service dogs, these fakers ruin it for all of us, because the abusers with bad mannered dogs may force dog friendly businesses to change their policies.
    Elaine recently posted…Dealing with CCL Knee Injuries in DogsMy Profile

    • I agree that for many of us it is easy to tell the difference, but for inexperienced folks – people without dogs, they may think they all behave like the fakes. A shame.
      mkob recently posted…Mythbuster – Tug of War Leads to AggressionMy Profile

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