Fake Service Animals

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:

  1. The dog is out of control and the handler does not take effective action to control it.
  2. 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:

  1. Is it a service dog?
  2. 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.



  1. Dawn Western Hovis says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. It gave me some insight on ghings I had not previously considered. It also provided much-needed information on allowable interception of animals who are clearly forced to pose as service animals.

    That being said, this epidemic has reached astronomical proportions here in Boca! It is such a mess that most businesses don’t even want to touch the issue and, therefore, have made ridiculous allowances for animals to accompany their humans. For instance, a woman was walking her dog in the mall one day. I alerted the security professional and was told that, as long as the dog is in a stroller, it is ok. WHAT???!!! Well, the dog was not in a stroller but I realized right then and there that I was not going to win this fight. Most people aren’t even bothering to try and fake it with a vest or any such accoutrement. However, if you even look sideways at these individuals, they become immensely indignant. As if that example was not bad enough, a woman left her poor little dog unattended in the baby seat of a shopping cart at Publix in the produce department where food is open! Honestly, I cannot say whether or not this woman would have claimed her clearly petrified dog to be a service animal but, at what point, do we say “enough is enough” and stop people from this gross misuse of the law?

    The real problem here is that it creates doubt in ordinarily compassionate people like myself. That is the real tragedy for persons with actual disabilities, both physical and mental/emotional. My proposition for this is simple. Are people with disabilities allowed to park in disabled spots without proper placards? No. Why not create a special blue license tag for service animals that would have no cost to the disabled person and be procured using the same requirements as the blue parking placards. Yes, that does introduce a small amount of bureaucracy into the mix but wouldn’t it be nice to eliminate that fear of people judging your companion’s legitimacy? Additionally, this special tag could be specially encrypted so that it would be difficult to copy.

    I hope my two cents worth were a decent read and not mistaken for antagonism. Keep fighting the good fight!

  2. Kim & Duke says:

    I’ve had guide and service dogs since 2000. I got my first guide dog from a school, but with my second and third I’ve had to partly self-train them (with the help of a professional dog trainer. I did this because although a lot of school will train a service dog, and some schools will train a guide dog for a blind person who uses a wheelchair you can’t have both. When you add seizures into the mix I couldn’t find a program that would do the extensive training needed. So, off to the UK I went for 6 months to begin training with my current dog and we became a wonderful team back in 2009/2010.

    The whole talk of ‘certification’ scares me! My dog was trained to do specific tasks in a very specific way to meet my needs. If some random person had to follow you around ticking boxes if your dog did things the way THEY saw fit a perfectly trained dog could easily fail the ‘certification’ test! Would it mean every service dog user would have to train their dogs to do the same tasks int he exact same way in order to pass the ‘certification’ even if it didn’t best suit that person’s disability?

    Just recently I was in the mall waiting at Booster Juice when one of the employees asked me how she could get her dog ‘certified’. It wasn’t at all like the many conversations I’ve had int he past with parents who were curious about how to get a service dog for their child. I explained to her that I traveled to the UK from Canada and spend six months there training with my dog. Once she realized that I wasn’t going to tell her to go to X site and get a tag she said it sounded like a lot of work and continued about her business. I think the main problem with fake service dogs are the websites that make is so easy to just pay them for a tag stating that your dog is a working dog. Of course this makes it harder for those of us who rely on our highly trained dogs because these people are whipping out their SD badges and then more and more people think that if you don’t have a fraudulent badge you on’t have a ‘real’ service dog.

    I’m a blind quadriplegic (I have programs on my computer which allow me to use it) and my guide/service dog allows me to have as much freedom as possible. Without him I would be forced to rely on other people to push my wheelchair around, retrieve things I’ve dropped, open doors, help with undressing etc. I wonder if the people wanting to pass their pet off as a service animal realizes just how trained actual service animals are and how much work went into training them. It’s like I always say. The training never ends. It’s a continual process to make sure your dog is reliable and keeping up with his or her skills.

  3. My Husband and I both have Service dogs and always carry that ADA papers on us. We do not always put a vest on our dogs and we don’t always but large tags on them stating that they are Service Dogs. We need them and they help us! Personally I have a mobility problem. My dog Max keeps me on my feet and if I fall.. he gets me back up! Max is fantastic and many people do not believe he is a Service Dog because he can keep and eye on me at all times but can socialize at the same time. At the convention we just went to for the first time, The 18th Annual Family Cafe, just about everyone fell in love with Max and they saw how well he took care of me while getting hugs, kisses and pets from children and adults. Max knows when my leg or legs are going out from under me before I know! He is right there to brace me, even if it means he needs to get between my legs to keep me upright instead of flat on my face. This was witnessed by numerous people at the event. Max was the big black furry Newfoundland which a lot of people referred to as Bear!!

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