Puppy Goes Zoom

Dogs, cats, randomness–my adventures in pet ownership and fostering

Thoughts on Service Dogs

on July 15, 2012

A few weeks ago, I read How to Think of Service Dogs. There’s a ton of info here about what’s legally required and what’s not where ADA service dogs are concerned. People have a tendency to believe that a real service dog “must” know certain commands or “must” be certified by a given organization, but those aren’t real legal requirements.

Later, I read on Service Dog Awareness’s Facebook page that supposedly 8 out of 10 service dog vests purchased on-line are for fake service dog teams (though the author of the post didn’t have a link to the article handy, so who knows who published that or where they came up with that number). A lot of people were of the opinion that companies selling vests or other service dog attire are unscrupulous and are contributing to fraud, but honestly, I don’t think it’s a seller’s job to verify that, any more than a wheelchair company should make you prove you’re disabled before they let you buy one. The most I honestly think anyone purchasing a service dog vest should be asked is the same questions they’re asked when they want to bring their dog into a restaurant or grocery store: “Do you have a disability as defined by the ADA?” and “Does the dog help you with that disability?” That should be it.

Sure, people who have service dogs provided by organizations will get a vest from that group when they get the dog, but people who train their own service dogs should be able to put a vest on them if they want, to make the dog easily recognizable and so people know not to bug the dog while they’re working.

I’d also love for someone, anyone, who’s writing about the scourge of fake service dog teams to throw out some stats. Trainers I know have definitely had people ask them to “certify” a dog as a (totally bogus) service dog so they could take it places or keep it in a situation where they otherwise wouldn’t be allowed to. And in any discussion of the issue, there will be people who are heavily involved in the dog world who’ve never seen anyone faking (that they know of, of course), and people who seem to see it all the time. It definitely happens, but “how often” is pretty fuzzy. So an actual study and some hard numbers would be fantastic.

The reason I really want to know the numbers is that the first rule of problem-solving should be that first you figure out how big the problem actually is and quantify what harm it’s causing. That needs to happen before you even ponder solutions, because there’s no way to know if the solution is worthwhile or useful if you haven’t defined that.

My personal feeling is that any of the problems I’ve heard of with fake service dogs would be addressed if the laws that require service dogs to be under control in public were enforced. If someone brings a well-behaved fake service dog into the grocery store, they’re being an entitled jerk, but they haven’t actually harmed anyone. But make a disabled person “prove” that they’re allowed to have a service dog, and that’s going to cause harm. And if someone brings a badly behaved dog to a store or restaurant, they can be kicked out, whether it’s a legitimate service dog or not.


2 responses to “Thoughts on Service Dogs

  1. Great Post. I have a service dog and know people who have faked it. The fakies make it hard for the legit. BTW I have worked therapy dogs and made their jackets so I made my jacket for my service dog.

    • KellyK says:

      Thanks, Nancy. I’m sorry you’ve had to run into people faking, especially since they’re making your life harder. I would think that knowing someone who needs a service dog would make people think twice about faking, but I guess not.

      Very cool that you work with therapy dogs. (I hope to do that someday, but haven’t ended up with a dog who has the right temperament for it. Diamond is shy and easily scared, and Reba is too in-your-face, though she might make a great therapy dog in five years or so if she mellows out.)

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