Thursday, September 29, 2016

Real vs. Fake Service Dogs

Photo courtesy of St. Francis

OK, time for another rant. There will be profanity and name calling. Sensitive people should leave now.

I'm on several GSD Facebook Groups. The other day someone talked about passing her dog off as a service dog so that she can take it into stores with her while running errands. The rest of the group blasted her -- and rightfully so. But Lying Lisa is not alone in her deception. It happens a lot more than you think.
  • I know people who take their GSDs into restaurants and just let people "assume" the dogs are services dogs. (It's wrong. It's a lie by omission. I've spoken up and refuse to dine with them.)
  • There are places on the internet where you can buy vests and ID cards to "Turn your dog into a service dog for only $59.95!" (I'm not going to tell you where. And if you go looking for them, I wish a pox upon you.)
  • People think they can get out of an animal control ticket because "He's a service dog." Never mind that the dog can't provide any type of service while running on the beach 100 yards from the owner. Or that it's Mom's service dog, but Mom is a home right now. (True stories! BTW, those people got tickets AND civics lessons.)
I'm not going to mince words: People who pass off fake service dogs are selfish pieces of shit. And they make it harder for people who legitimately need a service animal. As an ACO I get training on Service Animals and the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) on a regular basis. I know that a person with a service dog can be asked two questions:
  • "Is this a service animal?" and
  • "What services does it provide?"
So when people say "I don't have to tell you!" I know that they are unfamiliar with the law and are probably lying. News flash: Service dogs are required to adhere to leash laws unless doing so hinders their ability to work.

Service animals DO NOT have to wear vests (though many do) nor are they required to have ID cards. So when people insist on showing me the dog's ID "as proof" I also suspect that they are lying. (They spent $59.95 for nothing!)

Unfortunately, the way the laws are currently written make it easy for someone to lie about a service animal. It's frustrating. Business owners are afraid to confront people because if they are wrong, they are "violating a person's civil rights." There are lawyers who specialize in this type of case. It's cheaper to err on the side of caution. I hear the frustration from the fed-up business owners and the general public. You may be surprised to know that the biggest complainers I meet are people with legitimate service dogs. Fakers hurt their reputations and weaken the acceptance of real service dogs. Let that sink in . . .

My personal opinion is that things will change eventually. I believe there will be some sort of official certification. (However, there will always be selfish POS dog owners who will try to skirt the system.) I have some good news for Florida residents: On July 1, 2015, registering fake service dogs became a crime. Law breakers can get a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. YEA!

I've also noticed that people assume that a "Service Dog," an "Emotional Support Dog" and a "Therapy Dog" are all the same thing. They're not. And rules are different for each of them. The people at Orvis developed the infographic below to help explain it better AND they gave me permission to share with you! Enjoy, learn, and -- most importantly -- don't be a selfish POS. -- K

Is That a Real Service Dog?

Is That a Real Service Dog? Developed by Orvis.

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