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Faking Service Dog Status

Over the weekend I saw something that really got my hackles up. An ad appeared in my Facebook stream for a company that will help you register your pet as an Emotional Support Animal and “travel with them anywhere … with no fees … in just two minutes.” This is wrong on so many levels! What kind of morally depravity …

And then it occurred to me – perhaps people don’t understand the damage they are causing. So, let’s talk about it for a minute.

Service Dog Ad

Identifying information was removed, because I refuse to be a source of traffic for this company.

Levels of Wrongness

In order of progressing transgression:

Level 1: The fact that this ad showed up in my feed is absurd. Clearly, even with their fancy algorithms analyzing my every “like” and comment, Facebook knows NOTHING about me. In fact, why is Facebook even allowing this ad to appear on their network in the first place? That makes me even angrier.

Level 2: The ad suggests it will take only two minutes to register your pet as an Emotional Support Animal. Wrong! The registration process requires a letter of prescription from a licensed medical professional who has examined you, determined you to be disabled, and states that a support animal will alleviate your symptoms. It’s going to take longer than two minutes. Furthermore, there is no requirement that Emotional Support Animals be registered or certified – getting your credit card number is part of the scam.

Level 3: The ad seems to imply that, once he’s registered, you’ll be able to take your pet with you anywhere you go, with no fees – just like a Service Animal. That’s incorrect. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to people with Emotional Support Animals. You’re not allowed to take these dogs into restaurants, grocery stores, or anywhere else that pets cannot go. There are two protections afforded to Emotional Support Animals: they can live with their owners in housing that otherwise doesn’t allow pets; and they can accompany their people in the cabin of an aircraft. That’s it.

Level 4: Emotional Support Animals ameliorate the symptoms of people with debilitating psychological conditions, like severe depression, post traumatic stress disorder, or anxiety and panic disorders that cut those afflicted off from the rest of the world. That people would even consider falsely claiming to have these conditions out of their own selfishness reveals a monumental lack of compassion and empathy. And that a company like this one would grease the wheels to capitalize on, and profit from, that insensitivity is perverse.

Level 5: Just like these companies take advantage of the public’s ignorance about the requirements and protections afforded to Emotional Support Animals, they encourage their customers to bank on the fact that many business owners are uninformed about the laws regarding these animals as well. “Once you’ve registered your Emotional Support Animal and have received it’s photo ID and vest, people will not be able to distinguish between it and a Service Animal.”

This is the one that really gets me. You are not blind or deaf. You have all your limbs and are not confined to a wheel chair. You’re not suffering from seizures, diabetes, or a debilitating emotional condition. Why would you even consider making life even one iota more challenging for the people who are? Faking Service Dog status is the worst of the worst … because it causes businesses proprietors to be suspicious and even throw out people with actual disabilities who are just trying to live their lives.

Someone once told me that no one does anything that they believe is wrong. I think that’s true … we all make up stories about why the rules don’t apply to us. But, let me say this, if you are passing off your pet as a service animal to gain access to places that would otherwise be off limits to you, you are wrong. There is no acceptable excuse for faking service animal status.

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Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be able to take Buster and Ty with me everywhere I go. It’s the whole reason we started GoPetFriendly.com in the first place! We wanted to make it easy for all of us to find pet friendly hotels, restaurants that welcome dogs on the patio, and fun activities like wineries, beaches, hiking trails, and shopping centers that we can enjoy together.

No Ty, you were supposed to remember the ChuckIt!

Ty, you were supposed to remember the ChuckIt!

And yeah, we get irritated when we can’t take the boys along, but there is a right way and a wrong way to solve that problem. Satisfying your own desires to the detriment of people who already have some disadvantage in this life is the wrong way. Being a responsible pet owner who trains and cleans up after their pet, follows the rules, and supports pet friendly businesses – and thereby encourages more businesses to go pet friendly – is the right way.

Planning a pet friendly trip of your own? We’ll make it easy:
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  • Iam, I absolutely could not agree with you more, and it was never my intention to in any way suggest that service animals assisting those with invisible disabilities are any less important. I should have included one of the less visible disabilities in the examples I listed in this post. My focus was on people who travel with their pets and would like to avoid the inconveniences of not being allowed to take their pet everywhere, but may not think through the impact they’re having on those who need their service animal to live their life. I appreciate your comment. Thanks for helping raise the level of awareness for us all.

  • Thank you for sharing, Danielle – and thank you for raising such astute, compassionate young women. If only more people would think about the impact their decisions have on others, we wouldn’t have these issues. My best to you and your family.

  • I loved this, as a person that has an invisible disease/disability it is frustrating enough being questioned because it is not obvious what her tasks are, I’m always happy to educate someone, give them a card that had all the ADA info on it. It is also obvious though that she is a skilled service dog just from her general behavior. I have two daughters that work in seperate supermarkets and they have told me that they have had dogs come in that are so out of control that it is very obvious to my dog savy girls that they are not trained service dog. Here is the hard part, my girls and their co workers don’t question these people because they have been working hard to educate their peers how stressful that can be to a person with a real disability. They see turning the other cheek is the best way to protect the people that really do have a disability.

  • Thank you, John! Since I’m out here encouraging people to travel with their pets, I feel I should be helping them them to do so responsibly. =)

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