Alexa, please order fido a service dog vest… Sounds funny, but unfortunately Alexa can and it’s harming real service dogs that assist the general public and people in need of their help. Over the last few years, the nation has seen a raise in faux service dogs, to such an extent that 19 states have now passed laws cracking down on the practice.
“Today, any pet owner can go online and buy a vest for a dog to pass it off as a service animal to gain access to restaurants, hotels and places of business,” said Republican state Rep. Kimberly Ferguson, who introduced the Massachusetts bill. “Their animals aren’t trained and end up misbehaving in these public places, which gives real service dogs a bad name.”
Real service dogs go through extensive training in their field of expertise, hence they serve a purpose to society and have earned the right to wear a service dog vest. Service dogs serve in a number an invaluable ways, there are Visual Assistance Dogs, Diabetic Alert Dogs, Hearing Dogs for the Deaf, Wheelchair Assistance Dogs, Psychiatric Service Dogs, Brace/Mobility Support Dogs, Medical Alert Dogs, Seizure Assistance Dogs and more. When we add faux service dogs into the mix we endanger the legitimacy of real service dogs. It takes one aggressive faux service dog to get real service dogs banned from a location and endangers a human that’s truly in need of their service dog’s assistance.
With easy access to products that fool authorities, faux service dog owners are crippling a valuable service industry for their own comfort. Most of the time owners pass their dogs off as service dogs for selfish reasons, such as the ability to bring them into restaurants and businesses or getting around the additional charges at the airport. But the scams go beyond just products you can buy online, they extend into fake websites that allow you to register your dog as a service dog and will send you “official” documentation stating your animal is a service animal.
One of the main issue is that there is no national database for legitimate services dogs, hence there is no practical way to prove a dog has undergone the proper training. Thus, allowing unscrupulous individuals to game the system. Traditionally, the only real way to tell a service dog from a non-service dog is the “four on the floor” rule, this means that no service dog should ever be carried in a dog bag or in a human’s hands, at all times they should have all four paws on the floor. But the issue with the “four on the floor” rule is that most authorities are not aware of the rule’s existence and therefore don’t implement it.
To compound the problem, The American with Disabilities Act requires all places open to the public, such as businesses, government agencies and entertainment venues, to give access to service dogs and their owners. And it permits them to ask only two questions: whether the dog is required because of a disability and what tasks the dog is trained to perform. It is illegal to request documentation for the dog or to ask the nature of the owner’s disability. This allows dog owners to simply lie to get their dogs into public venues such as restaurants and stadiums.
States and animal organizations are working together to solve the issue of faux service dogs, but at the moment it’s up to dog owners to police themselves. 19 states have moved forward with legislation to combat the problem, but we at Digital Doggy hope this is just the start of a nationwide movement.
How do you think we can battle the epidemic of faux service dogs? Let us know in the comments below! And be sure to sign up for our DIgital Doggy newsletter to get great stories like this delivered straight to your inbox!