Fake Service Dogs

Photo Credit: Canine Companions for Independence

First things first, I wish to issue forth a disclaimer. As the mother of a child who relies on a wheelchair to get from point A to point B, I recognize that I am likely more sensitive about the topic of service dog fraud than the average Joe (or Josephine).

Take your dog anywhere!

The Google ad reads, “Take Your Dog Anywhere!” and it connects to OfficialServiceDogRegistry.com. Here it states,

We expect and hope that you will use this registry as intended and in a responsible and respectful manner. Registration is conducted under the honor system and we are not required to verify any disability or review any documentation to verify any disability.

Faking it is easy

Registering a service dog on OfficialServiceDogRegistry.com is super fast and easy. All one must do is complete a very simple online form. There is no verification process, and registration is immediate. The registration setup fee is $39, dog and human ID cards are $54 each ($35 without photos), and a service dog vest costs $54-$76, depending on size.

I suspect that business at OfficialServiceDogRegistry.com is booming. I also suspect that those in charge of this business are well aware that their honor system isn’t being used honorably. Is it any wonder that the number of fake service dogs is growing exponentially?

On a recent flight from North Carolina to New York I counted five dogs sporting service vests seated beside or at the feet of their human companions. Same thing in Home Depot last week- an adorable Pomeranian, a German Shepherd pup, and a bouncy mutt all “in-vested” and, in theory, providing assistance during hardware, paint, and lumber shopping.

Why are people faking it?

Why would folks put service vests on their non-service dogs? It’s simple. They want their dogs to be able to go wherever they go, be it shopping, eating in restaurants, or flying on airplanes. Believe me, I understand the temptation, but there oodles of temptations that I say “no” to because they are illegal and/or unethical. Committing service dog fraud isn’t illegal (except in Florida- see below), but it sure as heck is unethical.

Untrained fake service dogs can be disruptive in public venues. When a business limits the number of service dogs allowed, such as on an airplane, the pretenders may prevent legitimate service dogs from gaining access. The bottom line is, faking a disability in order to gain privileges is never okay, and is profoundly disrespectful to people with disabilities.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

I am a huge fan of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It was enacted by the United States Congress in 1990, and opened so many doors for people with disabilities. As well intended as the ADA is, its rules pertaining to service dogs are so loosey goosey that they almost invite fakers to abuse the system.

The ADA stipulates that businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service dogs into all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. This federal law applies to any and all public businesses.

When it comes to investigating whether or not a dog dressed in a vest is a legitimate service dog, business employees’ hands are relatively tied. Even if the dog is unruly and disruptive, employees are allowed to ask only the following two questions of the person accompanying the animal:

  1. Is this a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What tasks has the animal been trained to do?

Asking questions about the individual’s disability and requesting identification card verification (although such cards are easy to obtain) are taboo as is requesting that the dog demonstrate what it is trained to do.

Putting a kabosh on fakers

I’m aware of only a couple of efforts to curb service dog fraud. A relatively new law in Florida classifies misrepresenting a dog as a service animal as a second degree misdemeanor. Individuals who are caught face a $500 fine and up to 60 days of jail time. Here’s the rub. Given ADA regulations (see above) it is extremely difficult to catch a faker. Florida attorney Jason Quick explains, “Probably the way this would come up is if the animal were to destroy property, attack someone or cause some type of incident, and it would be investigated.” In other words, something pretty extreme must transpire in order to make the case.

Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a longstanding service dog organization based in Santa Rosa, California, has a goal of collecting 50,000 signatures from people who pledge to stop service dog fraud. The hope is that these signatures will urge federal regulators to block the online sale of fake service dog certificates, vests, leashes, and other products from official-looking websites. I have taken the pledge and hope you will as well.

Lastly, please know that I did not write this article with the intent that you will begin to view people and their service dogs with skepticism. Rather, my hope is that, in addition to taking the CCI pledge, you will speak up loudly and clearly if someone you know “brags” about how they bucked the system in order gain public access for their dog.

Keep in mind that, eventually each and every one of us will become disabled in some capacity. Faking a disability before that time comes is unconscionable.

How do you weigh in on this topic?

Wishing you and your four-legged family members much good health and happiness throughout the holiday season.

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.


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27 Comments on “Fake Service Dogs

  1. I’ve been pretty deep in the SD, ESA, PSA, an therapy dog world as a trainer as well as also being someone who benefitted from a SD before we could get my grand mal seizures under control. I’ve been a therapy dog handler as well.

    I currently work with vets w/PTSD. I’ve come to this…I tend to agree with Kate’s comment. If a dog has a good temperament and is well mannered, I don’t care to make a fuss or hold someone to the “dog must perform 3 tasks related to a person’s disability” standard.

    I’ve been to legal discussions and played devil’s advocate to ask how the presenter questions I’m asked, “So, does anybody really NEED a SD? We have technology that can replace dogs and they get in the way.” The answer was, “A dog is my tool. I can choose to wear contacts or glasses. If I choose a dog and happen to also receive emotional benefits, this is my choice.”

    The fact that someone wants to bring their dog with them places, probably does indicate some emotional issues. I get it. I saw a woman in a store the other day with a sweet Corgi mix with a SD vest on. The dog smiled and wandered over to me. She offered, “You can pet her if you like” – something hardcore SD owners often don’t do. She wanted me to pet her dog, obviously.

    What I do not like are when are loud, boastful people whose dogs can’t even demonstrate basic manners and the owners have poor handling skills and plain bad manners. You see them making spectacles of themselves in a store or they come to me and the first thing out of their mouth. I often tell them what I’ve heard…”You need to make it easier for the person coming behind you with their SD. You need to do a good job representing the SD community. Having a SD is a privilege that can be taken away with abuse; don’t make it hard for others.”

    As an animal lover, I would be in favor of great therapy dog teams being present anywhere, frankly. I’m sure people who are afraid or turned off by animals would disagree, but a good majority of us just feel happy seeing a beautiful, respectable team wandering around. They can sport the “I’m friendly. Ask to pet!” tags. Love them.

    The others can say, “Working animal. Please do not pet.” That’s fair too. Respect that.

    I’ve seen some of the absolute worst, including a wheelchair bound person getting a dog from a SD organization only to do what I would say is clearly abuse to the animal (she has been reported many times–no action) by zooming around in her electric chair and dragging the dog in the heat for miles, not having it groomed (Standard Poodle) and the dog is reactive when it sees other dogs. Her first one was killed when it zoomed out in front of a car. She was given another…standard poodle…a breed that requires extensive grooming and the person is totally incapable of handling the dog well or even picking up its litter. The dog has no demonstratable, trained skills. That’s irresponsible of a dog organization IMO also.

    CA, by the way, has a $1K fine for “misrepresenting a SD.”

    So, yeah, if there is a reliably sweet, well-mannered, well-cared-for dog out there and a person who is willing to take the heat for “Why do you need a SD?” because they benefit emotionally, then I am ok with this. Maybe it’s someone who is suicidal? I’m not that concerned so long as they are not a nuisance.

  2. As a recent recipient of a TRAINED service dog through Canine Companions for Independence ( my first successor dog ), I am both appalled and saddened at the number of fake service dogs I’ve encountered as well as the number of people willing to make excuses for the fakes!
    To begin with, the ADA recognizes only TWO animals for service animals: dogs and minature horses….NOT birds, rabbits, pigs, goats, etc. The ADI has strict guidelines on the training, not only of the animal, but also of the human the animal is helping. For example; is the public safe, is the handler safe, is the animal safe?
    As mentioned in a letter above, there are ’emotional support dogs’ out there, however, they DO NOT have the same right of public access as a trained SERVICE or HEARING dog–emotional support dogs are NOT allowed in stores, restaurants, schools, etc. It is this type of abuse that makes it harder for those of us with true service dogs to be taken seriously.
    One example, is that in my town’s Sam’s Club a lady always brings her Chihuahua support dog, and no one says a thing, whereas I attempt to shop with my trained, REAL service dog, and I get hassled!! I’ve been asked if she is in training, do I really need her, etc.!
    Just a few months ago, while visiting my husband’s surgeon in Colorado, my husband ( who recently had undergone a partial neck fusion ) was almost tripped by a Yorkie ’emotional support’ dog who BY LAW should not have been allowed in!! The lady who owned the dog payed no attention to it’s running around, and if I hadn’t seen it underfoot, my husband could have been seriously injured! These are the types of problems these fakers put out there.
    STOP THE MADNESS, STOP THE FAKERS–DO NOT BE AFRAID TO SPEAK UP!! Too many stores are afraid of being sued if they don’t allow the fakes in…think of the law suits coming when those fakers hurt someone! Not wanting or being able to leave ‘fluffy’ at home does NOT a service dog make!!

  3. All states need to enact service dog laws so that fraudulent dog owners can be prosecuted. I have used aa service dog now for 15 years. I am on my second and yes I self train because the cost of obtaining a trained service dogis prohibitive.

    I was denied housing and ended up in federal court, grad v royalwood, 10 years ago. Yes i won the case. Yesterday I was asked to leave a 711 because I am not blind. My service dog is professionally vested and always is appropriate in her actions. My disability is not blindness.

    I think that those with false service dogs place restaurants and other public stores in a tough spot. I am now seeing people wearing vests for their toy service dog to sit in so the dog can reach the owners face, duh?? Time for a big change.

    PS therapy dogs do not qualify for an exemption at a hotel or any other place beyond where their duty is called for us hospital, library, etc..

  4. I am a landlord…we have a NO PETS rule.
    That being said…A trained service dog is NOT a “PET” and the no pets rule does not apply from a legal standpoint.

    The difficulty I have pertains to all those FAKERS out there.
    No one will ever convince me that an eight week old German Shepherd Dog puppy has been trained to be a service dog…I call B.S.

    “My puppy makes me FEEL GOOD” does not constitute a requirement for a service dog.
    My 4 dogs make me feel good too, but they are not service dogs and they are not allowed on our rental properties either.

    My philosophy is there are no bad dogs, only bad dog owners. People who fake service dog credentials are bad dog owners. Period!

  5. People are going to have to figure out how to be tolerant. If there are some “fake” service dogs, oh well, that’s the price everybody pays to avoid some bureaucratic, and no doubt expensive, procedure for certifying “real” service dogs.

    This reminds me of the transgender issues going on right now. As I shower and dress frequently in a women’s locker room at the gym, that now anybody who claims to be a woman can access, I wonder how long until the “fake” transgenders (i.e. random pervert guys) start to take advantage of that. Or will we need a certification procedure for that too???

  6. One of the ways a service dog (emotional support as well) can be excused from a public place or a housing situation is IF they are disruptive. Excessive barking, lunging, biting at humans or other animals or being a nuisance in any way allows a manager, owner of housing, employee of a business to ask the offending dog to leave. Service vest or not, paperwork or not, the dog must go.
    Emotional support dogs do not have to perform a task at all by the way and most you see on the street are exactly that. They are giving support to those who have problems such as a fear of leaving the house, a trauma victim who has been attacked in public, those who are very uncomfortable in public, those who have suffered extreme loss. A host of other disabilities of which you can not see from the outside by eyeballing suspiciously. These are invisible to the naked eye emotional or mental illness that can not be measured by the presence of a wheel chair.
    SO there is protection for the public. Although I agree there is fraud, I am prepared to have a blind eye and mind my own business.
    Finding housing when you have a dog, is hard. Planes cargo area where dogs normally fly can be brutal and dogs die. From my prospective, anything that allows a bonded family keep their dog (housing) is a necessary evil. If it does not hurt someone else why make a issue? I am too a mother of a disabled child who is now an adult. I wish to God he could have had an emotional support dog but I did not know of the possibility at the time.
    As a rescue person who handles over 1500 to 2,000 dogs yearly in our program, I see the incredible pain that is caused when people can not take their dogs when they move. Perfectly wonderful, housebroke, well behaved dogs are sent to the shelter because landlords (understandably) do not want to take the risk of destruction of property and banned all dogs from their units. It breaks your heart. SO I support anything that allows a child to keep their pet or an elderly lonely person have their baby by their side.
    I do not see how it hurts anyone if someone is faking their dogs status. It is ethically irritating, I get it. Morally wrong, I agree. It makes me roll my eyes a bit. Then I move on with my own day and business. Who cares? The dogs are now federally protected and I think that is awesome.For those dogs, they have protection. If someone has an adorable Pom with a service vest on in Lowes-who cares? If he becomes a nuisance, as I earlier explained, the employees have the federal right to ask them to leave. Problem solved.
    I know you are deep into this cause and I will not change anyone’s’ mind with my point of view but this campaign is going to hurt people and most of all dogs. More dogs will die when they loose their status, can not live in the apartments, condos and rented homes. Many will end up at the end of a catch pole at the shelter being dragged down that long hallway. Who cares? No more fraud , right?

  7. A long time ago, I made a joke about service dogs “flying for free”. I was surprised at the response…it was inconceivable to me that someone might actually do that. Color me naive. Since then, I’ve seen a couple of sides of this now.

    The first was an “emotional support” dog that was being dragged around a college campus. At this point in my life, I have trained dogs to perform certain service tasks as well as teaching classes for prospective guide dogs. So I was legitimately curious about this dog’s training and the services it performed when I asked its owner about it. She said the dog offered “psychiatric therapy” but could not answer any questions about its training or skills. I went and looked on the net, could find NOTHING about legitimate programs for what she had claimed. I eventually came to despise her and her dog, a brachycephalic breed with loud and constant issues that disrupted an entire lecture hall full of students EVERY DAY. I suspect she paid her $39 for fake certification because I cannot imagine any legitimate outfit certifying a not-particularly biddable dog with obvious annoying and unmanageable behaviors yet no noticeable skills beyond 80 dB snoring and farting.

    The second was a service dog a service veteran friend relied upon to help him. The breed is a non-traditional one for service work despite making Stanley Coren’s “Smartest Breeds” list. A national airline refused his dog space on a flight because the airplane crew decided if it wasn’t a lab or a golden, then it couldn’t be a service dog. The airline has since made ammends to my friend so I won’t name them. The flight crew was probably poisoned towards legit service dogs by a faker.

    I don’t know what the answer is but a good start would be dog-friendly businesses and housing instead of claiming that dogs are a “health threat” and unilaterally banning them. All certifying agencies should be required to meet minimum standards of verification and testing. Nobody should be able to simply write a check to turn their dog into a “service” dog.

  8. I have been accompanied by a service dog for a genuine medical disability for 15 years. No one would question us. Now, with so many people faking it, more people look askance at a service dog. All the people who dishonestly claim that their dogs qualify for public-accessguarantees cause huge problems for people who genuinely cannot leave their house or function without a trained dog. The issue will eventually be resolved, probably by required standardized certification and medical evidence. Current ADI certification includes not simply proof of task performance, but also, and critically, public-access testing. You can look at their website for information on what that means.

    In addition, many fake service dogs are not trained for public access — a more difficult part of the training than is the task training. The team is not safe; my own service dog has been attacked more than once by a fake one.

    I completely agree that we need more access for all dogs, and I support ideas like the CGC for gaining that access. But caliming you are disabled under ADA or HUD is not the way to work toward more acvceptance. On the contrary, putting rude, aggressive, out-of-control dogs into areas where they are not allowed does not encourage better access laws — it does the opposite.

    It is the handler, not the dog, who qualifies under ADA and HUD. The handler must have a chronic disability that interferes with a life function. (The dog must be individually trained in tasks that directly offset that disability.) So people who fake it are claiming rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but they are not disabled. That does great disservice to the people who need ADA’s protection as well as to all pet dogs who are well trained and polite and could earn the right to public access through an honest channel.

    PLEASE work for better access for pet dogs through honest channels, not through faking serious disability. Have some thought for people who ARE disabled and who NEED their specially trained dogs.

    Also be aware that an emotional support dog is NOT covered under ADA. ADA and HUD are in conflict (which means that claiming access under HUD can lead to a lawsuit, and ADA is likely to prevail). HUD’s disability criteria are the same as ADA’s: major disability, chronic, interfering with a life function, dog specifically trained to perform tasks that explicitly offset the disability. IE, that does NOT mean that the dog simply makes the person feel better by being itself. All pet dogs are emotional support dogs in that loose sense! Again, for emotional support dogs under HUD, it is not the dog that qualifies; it is the owner by virtue of his/her disability. Believe me, I would love to see our society appreciate and welcome dogs in all venues, with the caveat that the dogs would be properly trained and socialized. Europe has been doing that all along. But not by this route.

  9. The official service dog registration is one of the largest shams of all. Service dogs are not registered in most states and are not required to wear a vest or have an ID. This is just a money making scheme nothing more.

    I am saddened to see the disruptive and sometimes dangerous behavior of so called service dogs. It is especially sad when the fake dogs disrupt the true service dogs from doing their work.

  10. Thank you very much for this article. I have been bothered by these fake service dogs for a long time. I am so happy that you are raising awareness about this issue. When there were four “emotional support” dogs on the floor at my gym at one time, i wrote a letter to management. I did a lot of research and discovered what you have written. My gym, which is big, made a ruling that service dogs are still allowed, but not “emotional support dogs”, i.e. those who are not trained to do anything….
    housekeeping: please check your links to the cci pledge…

  11. I agree with you completely and I took the pledge. My dog and I are working very hard to become a therapy dog team with Pet Partners and it really upsets me when I see people passing their dogs off as service dogs when it is clear they are not. Last week in the grocery store I saw a woman who had a shepherd mix barking and lunging at a small dog in another woman’s purse. The shepherd mix was apparently a .service dog! Sure he was….not with that behavior. Neither dog should have been in the store. For some people the rules are always just for everyone else!

  12. I applaud your article. I have to dogs each trained to do animal assisted therapy work. They have been doing this work for over seven years. I know some people with dogs trained as mine who believe they can take their dog anywhere in public. This is not the case at all. The training programs specifically state that is not allowed. It seems there is a general feeling among pet parents to have our dogs go everywhere with us. That will only become a reality when we earn that right by training our dogs to be comfortable and well mannered in public venues. Abusing the right to have an animal assisted therapy dog or a service dog by faking either with your dog is unethical and can do more harm in helping us get our dogs accepted in more of the public venues we desire them to accompany us to. I was diagnosed with a hearing loss and immediately wanted to know if my dog was able to be trained to be my service dog. I contacted an organization that does this kind of assessment. My dog was determined to be a good candidate to be trained as a service dog for me. The diagnosis never really developed into a reality and I did not need to go though the training with my dog. However, to say otherwise to get him on a plane with me is unethical because even though he is a highly trained and well mannered dog, I do NOT have a physical disability. We all need to take responsibiliy for training our dogs and when all or most dogs demonstrate good manners in public we will hopefully see changes in our society that will allow our beloved dogs to accompany us to more places in our human world. Woofs & Smiles to all. Donna Chicone

  13. I have a companion dog and I too would dearly enjoy having the ability to bring her along with me whenever and wherever I go. However, there are several reasons this isn’t practical, with the most obvious being there are laws prohibiting pets in most businesses. I recently chatted with a PTSD survivor whose service dog accompanied him to the doctor’s office. He was kind enough to provide me with a business card information he often resorts to when encountering “uneducated” people. It is produced b the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and provides a phone number for those having questions about the American Disabilities Act of 1990. According to this former service man, “emotional therapy” is NOT covered under the category of a service dog and is perhaps the most widely used fraudalent reason people flaunt their disobedience of our nation’s laws. If you have questions about the ADA, call them at 1-800-514-0301. Responsible pet owners do not condone abusing federal laws for their personal enjoyment/gain.

  14. We don’t let people park in handicap parking places without a doctor signing off on their need. At a minimum, it seems like a similar process could be used to establish a person’s need for a service dog. That wouldn’t address the issue of service dog training, but it would be a start to managing the problem of fake service dogs.

  15. Dr. Nancy, thank you for addressing this issue. It is unethical and obnoxious for dog owners to abuse a system designed to assist people who are truly in need of a service dog.

  16. Actually it is illegal to pass of you dog as a Service Animal under the ADA. Using the ADA to falsely claim rights is a Federal Offense. Violators are handled by the Dept of Justice in Federal Court. It does not happen often, but there are cases where “Fakers” have been challenged and end up in Federal Court.

    A big part of the problem is education. I meet so many who have “emotional support” dogs with no task training. Their owners honestly think this qualifies them as a service animal.

  17. When I trained my smooth collie be my service dog, I asked my doctor for a letter stating that my disability required my use of a service dog. I happened to have trained “official” guide dogs for the blind and my dog had 7 AKC working/obedience titles, so for me it was easy to train him. One of the things I trained him to do was to bring me a cordless phone from anywhere in my house in case I fell. He took his job seriously as my service dog. Once I fell and I was bleeding so I couldn’t use my cell and he did bring me the phone as requested. While still on the floor and before anyone came to help me, he then brought me (unasked!) …his pillow!!!!!! I would have never even thought of that, but he did. This is a true story.

  18. I am deaf and use a service dog for sound alerts. I am currently training my second Belgian Sheepdog hearing dog. Chance (RIP) was invisible! Folks would not see him until he did a nose poke alert…. on the other hand, folks wanted to pet him. I told them NO he was working, however, they would pet him anyway.

    Currently, True, who is not yet 2 years old, is doing well as a hearing dog. Very confident. We have been focusing on public access and alerts. He is still in training.

    I have seen some service dogs who are stressed to the point of fighting other service dogs. I went to a conference and two guide dogs started a big fight. The handlers continued working the dogs instead of taking them out of the crowd. I felt sorry for the dogs. I know of another service dog who was dog aggressive and barker. It made service dogs look bad.

    I do have problems with folks who abuse the service dog access. I don’t believe dogs should be certified as getting certification travel and expense, could be an undue burden on folks who really need service dogs. However, folks need to realize that training needs to be enforced, otherwise the dog reverts to being an expensive pet.

    Service dogs help so much to enable folks to be independent.

  19. I agree with 99% of this article. (I am disabled and have a service dog, trained by me). I absolutely agree that anyone who wishes to have their dog acknowledged as a service dog, MUST put in the socialization AND training. If I am in a restaurant, I couldn’t care less if the dog at the next table is a “real” service dog or not, as long as they are well behaved. Where I depart (perhaps) in my agreement, is the issue of rentals: landlords who refuse to allow pets. IMHO, anyone who is willing to live in their car rather than give up a pet has a bona fide need and right to not be discriminated against; and I often counsel them to have their doctor write a letter that the dog is a “service dog” even if that service is to keep them company and heal their soul. Most of these possible abuses would disappear if people were kind and not looking for a way to discriminate, be it rentals, restaurants, stores or transportation. And I’ve never heard of airlines being allowed to limit the number of passengers with service dogs.

  20. Hi Keri. Great question. It sounds like the dog in question performs pet facilitated therapy, which is wonderful. In no way, however, should this allow this person to take the dog to places where the dog is not actively working. In my mind, this is another example of service dog fraud (and you can tell her I said so!).

  21. I’m curious…..
    I know someone who visits hospitals and other special care facilities with her dog. Sometimes she will go to certain hotels/resorts that don’t allow dogs, but because hers is a Therapy dog she is allowed to take her, even though her dog is not actively working.
    What about this scenario? Thoughts?

  22. This is a valid problem! In my neighborhood where dogs are not allowed, people wanting a dog as a pet simply claim it to be a service dog and supposedly there is nothing you can do to stop them. I’ve then seen these dogs running off leash chasing cats and wildlife!
    How can we STOP this?

  23. Thank you for this timely article. Recently at a small workshop we had a service dog who was fairly disruptive but we were able to tolerate it. Later I asked the person what the dog was trained to do for him – “My dog helps me walk.”

    We need mass and massive education but we also perhaps need to focus on not only what the dog ‘can do for the person’ but also how well behaved the dog is and be able to better define that. What exactly does disruptive mean?

    And I have heard about service dogs not allowed in classrooms if another child is allergic to dogs (another condition that is sometimes misused).

  24. Thank you for a eat article about this issue. As a Canine Companions for Independence puppy raiser, I can attest to the difficulties fake dogs can cause. I’ve had them lunge, bark, growl and snap at my pups, who always seem vaugely embarrassed by such actions. To the people who think this is okay, I’d like to point out two things: (1) it’s the PERSON who has access, not the dog, so in case you didn’t understand Nancy’s point, you are pretending to have a disability in order to get access for your dog and (2) in all likelihood your dog doesn’t want to go everywhere with you. It takes two years of carefully exposing a puppy in training to many public places to get them comfortable with distractions, noise, people, etc. An airport for a 4-hour plane ride is NOT the first place I take a puppy, and neither is a big box store, a movie theater or the grocery store. It makes me furious to see a dog who is clearly uncomfortable with an oblivious owner, who gaily says, “Oh, he loves coming to the store with me!” No, actually he doesn’t, he hates it. Thie desire to take your dog everywhere is a very selfish one.

  25. As a Service Dog Trainer, I am with you whole heatedly, Nancy!! I am working hard, as are my clients, to train reliable “invisible” Service Dogs, dogs that are so well trained that they are barely noticed. Not all disabilities are visible, which is why it’s to easy for those who choose to put a vest on their dog and call them a Service Dog. Their behavior jeopardizes the rights of those who truly have a need. I feel there should be some sort of national test/accreditation/certification akin to a CGC, where a potential tester must meet requirements which will give them an approved tester status. All Service Dogs would then have to be tested by an approved tester, and pass the minimal requirements in order to obtain their Certified Service Dog status and be entered into a real national registry. Pups and dogs in training would need to obtain a “learners permit”, of sorts, until such time as they are ready to pass the test.

    Of course, there would still be those who would fake certificates, at least for those who chose, they could be verified.

  26. While I am totally against faking a service dog, and yes, fake registries abound, please be aware that professional trainers are also involved in trying to get things changes do that owners will not have the right to train their own dogs. They want to control things do that the only way to get a service dog would be through special agencies and professionals who train for profit. Many people who could benefit from a service dog would not be able to get one because of expense and/or bureaucracy. As it is, handlers often get harassed in public by individuals who are ignorant as to all the types of service dogs and that they can be any breed.
    I gave been battling cancer for many years and had a dog, a Chinese Crested, who alerted me to changes in my metabolism that would cause me to become disoriented and pass out. Once I realized that he alerted I did research in the ASA laws, and trained him to do specific tasks such as helping me get my cell phone, summoning assistance, and several other things. Because of him I was able to get out and do things that I would’ve been unable to do otherwise.
    His behavior was exemplary in public. Never once did anyone complain about him misbehaving. Never. He worked until he was too old and blind to go out, but still tried his best to look after me at home. After he passed, none of my other dogs had the ability to do what he did. I no longer have a sd, and doubt I will again. He wore either a small pack or an orange vest when working. Still I had a number of horrible confrontations by people who thought the only service dogs were guide dogs.
    I will not sign or advocate for any group or for any proposed law changes until I see evidence that owners’ rights to train is kept intact and that any proposed testing or licensing will be able to be managed with fairness to all. I will not support any laws requiring that only professionals can train sd’s.