A service dog rests during the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games archery competition at McCormick Place in Chicago July 3, 2017. The DoD Warrior Games are an annual event allowing wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans to compete in Paralympic-style sports including archery, cycling, field, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and wheelchair basketball.    (DoD photo by Roger L. Wollenberg)
Photo courtesy US Department of Justice

Fake service dogs threaten the legitimacy of well-trained service animals

By Sara Askew, April 3 2018 —

Legitimate service animals provide mobility to those who need them. However, a growing population of fake service dogs is infiltrating the world of support animals.

A fake service dog is a normal pet that an owner fraudulently dresses as a service animal. The vest and other tools animals wear are available on Amazon for around $30 and these fraudulent critters are becoming a significant issue across Canada.

Fake service dogs negatively impact the legitimacy of true service dogs. These animals threaten those who genuinely rely upon trained service dogs because untrained dogs often interfere with legitimate animals and other people when put in unfamiliar situations. Service dogs help individuals with disabilities gain independence they could not otherwise have. If you don’t have a disability, then you don’t have the right to use a service dog.

Service dogs are not a luxury. Those who masquerade a pet as a service dog threaten the work of real service dogs and the countless hours of training they go through to perform their duties. Fake service dogs’ lack of training puts everyone who encounters them at risk. One negative interaction with an untrained service dog can damage a legitimate animal’s training, lead to legal issues for the fraudulent owner and cause undue harm to bystanders.

The message is simple — don’t pretend a pet is a service animal. Under federal law, you cannot ask someone to verify whether they have a disability, but businesses can demand registration papers for service animals, which they should do if an animal doesn’t seem to be behaving like a well-trained service dog. Lying about a pet’s status diminishes disabled individuals’ circumstances. Service dogs are extremely valuable resources that require significant training. If you wouldn’t pretend to be in a wheelchair to take an elevator or pretend to be on crutches to get a seat on public transit, you shouldn’t pretend to need to take your dog everywhere with you.

Articles published in the Gauntlet‘s opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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