01 April 2015

Some people use fake service dogs

Sadly, not an April Fool's joke:
California-based Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organisation that provides highly trained assistance dogs for people with disabilities, says "service dog fraud" is making it more and more difficult for genuine owners to be taken seriously...

It is easy to buy a service dog vest on the internet. Numerous websites offer products such as official harnesses and tags. In some cases they are sold with a note stating that it is the owner's responsibility to ensure their animal is properly trained, but there is no system of enforcement.

Erin, who preferred not to give her full name, lives with her boyfriend and their dog, Bo, in Los Angeles.

She went online to buy a service vest for her pooch, because she wanted to avoid the fees charged by airlines for non-service animals - in the region of $90-$150 (£60-£100) to fly, one-way. Unlike working animals, they must be restrained in a container for the entire flight.

Erin, who is not disabled, travels everywhere with Bo because she says she can not bear to leave him home alone....

Many travellers are accompanied by their pets because they have special permission, based on a doctors' letter and an official certificate. Unlike service dogs, emotional support animals (ESAs) are not required to have any formal training, but are allowed on board without an additional fee...

Still, she says, "I know more faux emotional support dogs than real ones."


  1. Lots of people bring them into grocery stores here, and the store is reluctant to confront them.

  2. It's a difficult situation. I don't want to live in a world where people with service dogs have to show paperwork every time they walk through a door. And it's often easier and far less expensive for disabled people to find a suitable dog and train it themselves than to get one through an agency.

    On the plus side, the law in the US is that service dogs have to be admitted (and the handler's word is the only evidence required that it is a service dog), but they can be ejected if they misbehave or are out of control. No-one has to put up with a badly behaving dog, service animal or not.

    1. ..."they can be ejected if they misbehave or are out of control. No-one has to put up with a badly behaving dog, service animal or not."

      If they want to spend the next three years being sued by the disability lobby.

  3. The Guy from DallasApril 1, 2015 at 1:55 PM

    Don't forget: Some nonhandicapped people use handicapped parking permits to get into more advantageous auto parking spaces.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. An emotional support dog is not legally protected to the same degree as an actual service dog. For example, they do not have to be allowed in restaurants, stores, and airplanes. They are allowed to be in the homes of people who live in an otherwise non-pet building, however.

  6. You know an easy to identify people who don't like dogs? Take one into a grocery and watch folks' expressions.

    Volunteer puppy raisers for service dog organizations don't have access rights protected by the ADA as people with disabilities do. But early socialization of these dogs is critical to their training. A working service dog has to be able to walk into any public venue without distraction. A "been here done this" attitude.

    So we puppy raisers rely on the support and generosity of businesses to permit us access with our pups in training. When we're met with resistance, we're told about negative experiences with under trained, badly behaved and fake service dogs.

    The ADA protects the rights of an individual with a disability to use a service dog as an assistive technology, same as using a wheelchair, but the regulation is also written to protect privacy. It's not legal for a business to ask a person about their disability. And this is the loophole folk use to bring their pets into stores and restaurants.

    Like The Guy from Dallas says above, there is always somebody who thinks the rules are not for them.

  7. Donna -- I disagree with the premise of your first sentence. People might just not like dogs in environments where they don't generally belong, or they might like dogs but be highly allergic to them. I would think that if the trainers wore special vests that indicated that they were training service dogs, people would be a lot more welcoming to them (well, except for the allergic people.) I think shoppers just like to ensure that dogs in public spaces will be controlled (no licking the produce or biting the kids) and cleaned up after (no one wants to step in a puddle of pee, or worse.) But to get back to the original point, people who claim service dog status illegally is flat-out wrong and harmful to those who really do need them.

  8. While the need for people genuinely needing ESAs is generally bullshit, the functional need for them is crucial. Traveling with a dog is not as easy as it should be; so many hotels, in April 2016 are still nowhere near pet friendly.

    A huge part of this problem is the existence of puppy mills and breeders, adding to an overpopulated dog/pet population, meaning many are stray, poorly behaved/not properly trained, and/or bounce around shelters and homes. I can see a business like a hotel not being cool with dogs that constantly bark.


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