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Can You Spot A Fake Service Animal?

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Can You Spot A Fake Service Animal?

STOP Using a Fake Service Animal!

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Our dogs are incredible creatures who give us unconditional love and loyalty. They also give many people the freedom to live a better quality of life with their service animals.

Unfortunately, too many people abuse this privilege.  Can you spot a fake service animal?

It’s troubling this post even needs to be written.

Sadly, unscrupulous and selfish people – and companies wanting to make an easy buck – blatantly take advantage of the fake and relatively easy to buy online service dog certificates, documents, harnesses, vests and ID tags (for as little as $50 to $250). In addition, there is no official certification process for emotional, comfort and therapy support animals.

Guaranteed Access with the Americans with Disabilities Act

word image 732 2 fake service animal Great strides have been made over the last two decades in creating laws to protect people with disabilities in places where the public is welcome. These protections are included in Title II and Title III of the ADA (the Americans with Disabilities Act) to allow canine service animals in all public areas. Even if a public area is posted “No Pets Allowed,” the certified service dog and his handler are legally exempt. In addition, an increasing number of states are enacting statutes to charge business owners with interfering with the rights of the disabled if they refuse access to a person with a service dog.

What is a Service Dog?

word image 732 3 fake service animal According to the ADA, a service animal is a dog that is “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”

Examples include:

  • Guiding people who are blind
  • Alerting people who are deaf
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure
  • Reminding a person to take their meds
  • Calming a person with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or anxiety

Service animals are not primarily pets, they are federally protected working animals in all 50 states. The work or task the dog specifically performs must be directly related to the person’s disability.

Unrecognized Support Animals

The ADA does not currently recognize comfort, therapy or emotional support animals. Sadly, this is the area most commonly abused by unethical dog owners. These people feel they too are entitled to securing “No Pets Allowed” housing, traveling with their dog or accessing other public places only open to official service dogs.

The need for an emotional or comfort support animal is also impossible to determine – or even challenge – based on an often-unseen mental or emotional condition which self-serving individuals are more than willing to exploit.

The “Official” Loopholes

word image 732 4 fake service animal People using fake service animals will also often (erroneously) cite the illegality of discrimination against service dogs accessing places where animals are not usually permitted in order to get what they want. Again, these federal protections do not apply to comfort, therapy or emotional support animals. (There is an exception for veterans suffering from PTSD.)

Another loophole people with fake service animals will take advantage of is the two-question-rule. According to federal law, business owners can only ask these two questions:

  1. Is it a service animal?
  2. What is the dog trained to do?

Under federal law, they cannot ask for documentation or specifically about the disability. If they do, they can be sued. Unfortunately, this makes abuse of the ADA laws even easier especially in the hands of dishonest people.

Fake Service Animals Hurt Everyone

word image 732 5 fake service animal It may be tempting to use a fake service dog during the holidays to secure pre-boarding or preferred seating, or to book certain hotels that would not usually allow your dog. But the actions of a few selfish people ruin it for those who truly need these valuable protections! Already this year, Delta and United Airlines have both cracked down on their guidelines for traveling with support animals.

Just because you can buy a “service dog” vest, it does not make it ok to pass your pet off as a legitimate service animal.

Consider this: fake service dogs make it more difficult for legitimate service animals to do their job. Read this personal story about a blind man facing risks on an airplane flight.

Think you are not “really” hurting anyone (with a legitimate service animal) by using a fake service animal? Then read what Lacey Stephaney has to say about her recent experience with a fake service dog:

“My service dog, Gus, is gone.

Because too many people buy vests off the internet and bring their pets

wherever they feel like.

This is what happens when you bring your pet places where it doesn’t belong,

and claim it’s a service dog, when you know damn well it’s not.

Because of people that think service dogs are accessories and abuse the

system, my real service dog is gone.

I lost my partner. My best friend. A huge part of my life and my freedom.

I have to live with the memory and pain of putting the dog I love the most down.

I don’t tell people to keep their pets at home because I hate animals.

I tell you to keep your pets at home because the safety and well-being

of my medically necessary service dog was important.

I hope no other service dog handler has to experience the pure hell I have.

The truth is, I’m not the first, nor the last that lost my partner because

someone thought taking their dog to a place like Walmart was cool.”

Below are even more stories about real people with disabilities facing very real consequences because other people use fake service animals. It’s time for a reality check!

PA: Wounded Marine Vet Thrown out of Pittsburgh Bar for Bringing in His Service Dog

MA: Vet and Service Dog Kicked Out of Diner

IN: Woman Kicked Out of 7-Eleven for Having Service Dog

FL: Service Dog Kicked out of Restaurant in Bradenton

NV: Family Kicked out of Smashburger because of Boy’s Service Dog

OR: Veteran Says He was Kicked Out of Hotel for Having a Service Dog

DC: Service Dog Kicked Out of Hotel


East Valley K9 Services is ready to help!

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This class prepares you and your dog for the registration evaluation

with the different organizations that register therapy teams.

(Dogs must have attended a basic obedience course.)

Just email or call us at 480-382-0144

Servicing the Chandler, Gilbert, Tempe

and East Valley areas of Arizona!

Need dog boarding for the holidays? Call us today!

Additional Reading:

ADA Requirements: Service Animals

ADA Service Dog Laws (2018)

Collared: New Laws Crack Down on Fake Service Dogs

Is that Service Dog Fake? Under Federal Law, You Can’t Even Ask

Please Stop Using Your Pet as a Fake Service Dog

Fake Service Dogs Make Life Harder for People Who Need Them


Image Credits (Shown in Order of Appearance):

Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Image by MichaelDarby1976 from Pixabay

Image by CLVann from Pixabay

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Image by kdbloom from Pixabay

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

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