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Fake Service Dogs and the Problems They Cause

Updated on March 4, 2015

Service dogs are a vital part of the lives of many vulnerable people. Providing a vital, and tailored service to those in need, the job of a service dog ranges from pulling a wheelchair or switching on a light, to reminding patients to take their medication or calming them during a panic attack.


Governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, particularly the Revised Requirements; Service Animals, addition from 2010, disabled people with service dogs enjoy much needed rights not afforded to other animal owners. These laws state that service animals must be individually trained, working animals, not solely to provide comfort and emotional support. This provides a gray area in interpretation, as well as a loop-hole for those bent on exploitation of these laws.


There is a growing trend of dog owners masquerading their pets as service dogs, in order to reap the benefits, such as their dogs accompanying them into shops or onto flights, and in extreme cases, tax evasion. It is not difficult to obtain relevant documentation and clothing online. Aside from the moral standpoint, this behavior is extremely detrimental to genuine support animals, due to the fact that these fake dogs are almost certainly not trained to anywhere near the same standard. This risks generating a misconception that service dogs are merely glorified pets.


Business owners will rarely question those with apparent service dogs, due to the threat of hefty federal penalties aimed at protecting genuine users. These penalties are much needed as a genuine user may not outwardly appear disabled, as in PTSD. Thus, we have a difficult situation that threatens the credibility of this vital industry.


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