There’s a new epidemic that’s sweeping the dog community and it’s much more serious than you’d think.
We love our furry friends and wish that we could take them with us everywhere: to the grocery store, movie theatre, on the bus, because it’s heartbreaking to leave them at home all day. We all know what it feels like to close the door on your pets puppy-dog eyes when you leave for work in the morning.
But, there are a few places that dogs just don’t belong, unless they are service animals. Service animals are different than our pets. They undergo specialized training that teaches them how to respectfully travel through public spaces without disrupting people. They’re taught to help those who are disabled, doing tasks that their owners can’t, such as guiding the way in the case of someone who is blind, or picking things up for a person who is in a wheelchair. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. These dogs are allowed in places that regular pets aren’t, because of their owners need them to do daily tasks.
However, some people are abusing this program and buying fake vests and ID’s for their regular pets who don’t have the training. This is harmful not only for others who are disrupted by rowdy pets who haven’t been trained and who will bark or relieve themselves inappropriately, but also for those who really have service animals and have to fight to prove that they are real. Faking disability exploits those who are disabled for owners who just want to bring their dogs to Target. For war veteran Sergeant Mark Garvey, it’s particularly difficult. He was deployed to Afghanistan, where he was shot twice, and now has a service dog named Liberty. “There is nothing worse than pissing off a combat veteran who fought for his country, and now he has to fight to be able to go inside of a local grocery store.” he said. Faking a service dog creates suspicion for all service dogs, and people with disabilities face more discrimination as a result. For Janice Celeste, a writer for Huffington Post, her husband has faced discrimination because of his service dog, which he has for diabetes. Hotels will purposefully give them rooms in poor condition because they distrust the cleanliness of the pet.
Luckily, states are stepping up and imposing regulations on fake service dogs. In Colorado, a bill was passed making it a crime to have a dog pose as a service animal. First time offenders will receive a fine from $350-$1,000, with penalties up to $5,000. There are currently 12 states where it is a criminal offense to have a fake service dog. Next time you think about buying a fake vest for your dog, think again. After all, you don’t want your dog to become a canine criminal.