If you watch the news you may have noticed the stories about fake service animals. Based on the analysis of the news reports we have an epidemic of fakers taking their pets with them.
Yes there are a number of websites that will sell anyone a service dog vest. Yes there are a number of websites that will issue certifications that your dog is a service dot. And yes there are fakers out there.
Many fakers are easy to spot. Their dogs are out of control. They bark and lunge at people. They pull products off of the shelves in a store. They are constantly putting their noses and faces up on tables in restaurants. They may even go to the bathroom in a public store or restaurant.
Businesses already have remedies for fake service dogs that will not behave in public. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows business owners to ask the service dog handler to remove the dog if:
- The dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it.
- The dog is not housebroken.
When there is a legitimate reason to ask that a service animal be removed, staff must offer the person with the disability the opportunity to obtain goods or services without the animal’s presence.
So a remedy already exists for fakers whose supposed service dog is not trained or misbehaves.
Businesses can also ask service dog owners two questions:
- Is it a service dog?
- What service or task does the dog perform for the handler or owner?
However, it is difficult to determine if an animal is fake based on those two questions alone. The business owner can not ask anything else.
It is a crime to portray a pet as a service animal both at the federal and at the state level in most states. It is often difficult to prove that an animal is fake or not a true service animal.
From a business perspective fake service dogs or any service dog that misbehaves or is out of control can be removed from their business. The law already allows that.
The notion that we should change the ADA law or punish valid users of service dogs because of fakers is something that would be very wrong. The ADA was purposely written to allow those who need service dogs the ability to use them without a lot of red tape or hassles.
There are groups that want to require certification. However, no two agencies that train or currently claim to certify service dogs use the same criteria. Additionally, there are many owner trained service dogs working that do a great job.
Adding certification would add another layer of bureaucracy and also put a financial burden on the disabled, most of who live at or below the poverty line.
Persons with disabilities already have a difficult time. They have to deal with SSI or SSDI or both, Medicare or Medicaid, low cost housing, and more. They do not need the extra burden of locating and transporting their service dog to an approved certification agency and paying a fee for certification. Especially since many with disabilities do not have transportation.
Yes there are fake service dogs. The handlers should be punished when identified. But to put more paperwork, cost and burden on a person with a disability because of the fakers, just does not make sense.
At least that is what I feel as I squeak my wheels.