There’s a worrying and growing trend in the United States. It’s Service Dog Fraud – when dog owners purchase fake service dog vests and then take their dogs into public places.
Under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, people with service animals must be allowed access to public places. This is the Department of Justice’s definition of a service animal:
“Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.”
Yet, the sale of fake service dog products is unregulated. On a recent flight through Los Angeles International Airport, the volunteers in their PUPs programme told me that they regularly see fake service dogs at the airport. They can be spotted a mile away – dogs that are clearly pets with behaviors that are not characteristic of true service dogs doing things like jumping on people or stealing food.
CBS News has covered this type of fraud, which is causing people with genuine disabilities to be questioned about their right to enter establishments with their service dog:
Canine Companions for Independence is asking dog owners to take a pledge to stop service dog fraud. You can take this pledge by clicking here.
I encourage you to sign the pledge and circulate it to your friends and relatives. If you know of someone who is illegally passing their dog off as a service dog, please ask them to stop and help them to understand what problems they are causing.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand