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JoAnna Lou
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Unethical or Responsible Pet Care?
Playing service dog to travel first class.

The legitimacy and training of service dogs has come up a lot recently, and many of the cases do not have clear solutions. But what about when someone is consciously taking advantage of the privileges granted to service dogs?

With the USDAA Cynosport World Games coming up in Scottsdale, Ariz., I’ve been talking to many of the local competitors about how they’re traveling with their dogs. Some are caravanning in their RVs and others are reluctantly putting their pups in cargo. 

One of the more seasoned competitors mentioned that while she dutifully puts her dogs in cargo, she always sees fellow competitors passing their pups off as service dogs on the plane.

I understand the appeal of having your dog fly with you, safe and sound. It’s certainly a tempting option, and probably in your pet's best interest, but it seems to me like an abuse of the system.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects people with service dogs, which the federal government defines as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. They don’t need to be licensed or certified by the government, nor are they required to show any identification to prove a medical condition or the dog’s capabilities (although many companies sell authentic looking certificates for a hefty fee).

The flexibility designed to help the disabled also allows the law to be easily abused. These well-meaning people have their pup's best interest in mind, but are also unknowingly undermining legitimate service dogs.

What’s your take?  Is playing service dog unethical or responsible pet care?

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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Submitted by Anonymous | October 29 2009 |

Faking a service dog hurts REAL service dog users. More likely then not untrained animals are the ones to cause trouble and do bad things... Your dog didn't go threw the average 2 years of training and socialization most all service dogs go threw. Nearly 50% of all dogs considered to be a service dog by legitimate schools do not even make it to secondary training... there is a reason for that. Service dogs mean the world to the people they serve, sight and safety for the blind person, hearing for the deaf, companionship and friendship to a disabled child, life or death for a person with seizures. A means to be independent!

Faking service dogs should be a FEDERAL CRIME...

Submitted by Melissa Mitchelll | October 30 2009 |

Calling your dog a service dog when it is not is a federal crime... it's Federal fraud. Flying in an airplane is not like riding in a car. A dog who is unprepared for it could become a danger to itself as well as others on the plane. Please remember as well is is not a privilege to need the services of a service dog. Living with disabilities and endeavoring to find ways to live as independent as possible, which may sometimes include four paws is not a privilege. If I put my service dog in cargo they would not be able to bring him to me at the end of each leg so that he may assist me in being able to reach dropped items, assisting me in getting to restroom, or help me to remove my coat. It's damn had enough getting them to give me my own wheelchair during layovers (which may or may not be damaged) that myself and my service dog can operate with ease. Before I had a service dog, I was at the mercy of airport staff who regularly go off and leave me in a chair five to large for me for hours. I couldn't move that thing if the airport was burning down. I had ask perfect strangers to help me get money, get to the bathroom, get bags off the floor, pick up money I dropped and I never knew if the person I asked was simply going to do as I needed or take advantage of me in some way. These being able to accomplish these things with out fear of being left or taken advantage of are not a privilege. My service dogs have allowed me to continue my love of travel for that last 10 years and have accompanied me to over half the states and four countries.
I do agree that flying a dog in cargo is dangerous; however, impersonating a person with a disability using a service dog just adds another wrong to the situation. http://servicedogsawayoflife.blogspot.com/2008/09/people-claiming-their-...

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

The article does not acknowledge that legitimate service dogs for people with mental illness are actually discriminated against as they DO have to provide a doctor's letter and 48 hours notice prior to flight.

Also, as someone with a service dog, I am furious that anyone would "wink" at the prospect of faking their dog as a service dog. This is why my rights as a person with a disability that uses a service dog to mitigate the symptoms of the disability stands in danger of losing some rights on airlines. Fakers hurt people with disabilities. Fakers perpetuate discriminatory behavior. Fakers hurt me.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 2 2009 |

Come on! Just because someone is not deaf, blind, or epileptic does not mean that their dog does not provide them with some service. My dog means the world to me and I'd do anything to keep him safe. He services me mentally. He makes me smile, he makes me get out of bed on very rough mornings. If it were not for him, I'd be home under the covers right now probably sobbing about the screwed up society we live in.

Submitted by Dawn | October 30 2009 |

I think the law that requires pets to be placed in the cargo hold is unethical. I would have no qualms about passing my pup off as a service dog to keep him or her out of an unhealthy and dangerous environment, and I would tip my hat and give a wink to anyone else I saw doing it. If airlines would allow pets to ride with their owners for a fee, then I would gladly pay the fee, but that is not usually an option. God bless service dogs and the aid they render. I don't believe it harms them or their reputation when people do what they have to do to make sure their pets travel safely.

Submitted by Anonymousy | October 31 2009 |

That is really sad that you would not have an issue not only lying about your health and your dog's training but doing something that could harm other people, mostly disabled people who have an actual need for their trained service dogs to be with them. People who fake their pets as service dogs really do harm the reputation of real service dogs and real disabled people.

Disabled people do not have their dog with them because it is nice, comforting, or they just want to; they have their dog with them because they need to or else they would not be able to do the things that you take for granted every day, such as walk, buy groceries, etc. If a disabled person has a pet they want to travel with, they have to follow all the same rules as everybody else (such as putting the dog in cargo if it is too large for the cabin or choosing not to fly).

It is hard enough for disabled people, especially those who have to deal with access issues because people like you try to pass their pets off as highly-trained assistance dogs, so please don't make life even harder for us just because you feel a little inconvenienced to drive to your destination, use a dog airline, leave your dog at home, put your dog safely in cargo, etc. (A relatively small number of incidents does not make cargo too dangerous any more than car/train/plane crashes make car/train/plane trips too dangerous.)

You have plenty of options on what to do with your pet. Disabled people with service dogs do not. Every time a pet owner tries to fake their dog as a service dog, it makes it all the harder for real service dog handlers. It truly in all reality most certainly does effect disabled service dog handlers.

Please, stop being so selfish and think of others!

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

Certain Service Dogs do have to pocess paperwork for they can fly. It's only certain types that do not. A Service Dog team knows that the ADA doesn't cover them when they're flying, but another orgainization which a pet owner wouldn't know. Those teams know the new laws. I have a Service Dog and he has over 2 1/2 yrs of highly specialized training. Their trained to be quiet on a plane and go for hours and hours and hours and hours and hours without a potty break. Pets can fly in the cabin if they're a certain size and the owners pay the fees. Also, Service Dog teams know what's required by some airlines to fly and if any paperwork has to be done. I have flown my team several times and know which airlines require paperwork.... PLUS a Service Dog team knows what an airline can ask when flying. I hope someday that the airlines fine fakes with fines that would take an owner a lifetime to pay off.

Submitted by Lisa Dean and S... | October 31 2009 |

and what if your pet dog BITES someone. my dogs are specically trained dogs. If they were just some ordinary dog i would except them to fly in the cargo hold.

Show dog or not. i have seen dog show dogs BITE judges! I grew up in that world. JUST ordary dogs should NOT be allowed in the cabin with SDs.. for that matter what if your PET bites my animal? or distupts it and I have a HUGE issue??

Also anyone found fakeing an SD is against the law (federal), with a HUGE fine.
did u know that?

faking service dogs really hurts us that actully NEED them.

Submitted by Martha | October 31 2009 |

Dawn,

That is greatly offensive to those of us with legitimate service dogs. It may not be a federal offense to pass your dog off as a SD, but it is a state offense in most states with punishment ranging from a fine to jail time and confiscation of your dog. Your pet dog is not trained to the level that a service dog is and you have no idea how they will react to many situations, especially stressful ones such as flying. It is because of fakers that like may get very difficult for those of us with legit service dogs and why we now have so many public access problems. I have one service dog, one service dog in training and one pet dog. I would NEVER try to pass off a non-SD as a SD. We do travel with all 3 and stay in pet friendly places and drive. It is unethical, and in most states, illegal to pass off a non SD as a SD. It should be federal with stiff penalties!

Submitted by Smithcat | October 31 2009 |

So.....you believe that having to place your dog in cargo is unethical...............but lying about your dog being a legitimate service dog is "ethical", and allowing others to lie in order to do what they wanted, regardless of who it harms or of any protective laws that are being broken is also "ethical". Where are the "ethics" in lying? Wow....you do have some screwed-up values. You are totally lacking of any semblance in the tenents of Honor, Courage and Integrity. You disgust me.
Every time some selfish, thoughtless scumbag like yourself drags their ill-behaved, untrained and unvaccinated mongrel into public in the manner which you propose, it causes untold problems for legitimate service dog users. How? Simple. When the mutts who dont belong in the public venue, but are there because some idiot lied about them being a "service dog" start acting up (and it is not a matter of "if" they act up, but a matter of "when") THAT is the image that the public is left with in regards to ALL service dogs, legitimate or not. Access issues, denial of services and violations of the disabled persons civil rights always follow incidents where someone lied about their precious little "Fluffums" being a "service dog", just because they wanted to take the dog places it did not legally (or morally) belong. The actions taken by the self-serving lawbreakers have far-reaching consequences for those who they have no idea their actions are affecting. Therein lies the harm you cant seem to fathom.

Submitted by Barb | June 2 2014 |

I agree with you completely about lying about pets versus SD. I do disagree with your take as some dogs being mutts and not purebred dogs. I have seen many wonderful SD that are mutts as you have stated they can make great SD as well. I have also seen pure breeds that might not make that great a SD, due to anxieties . All I ask is that people that have SD please don not look down on the mutts that could be made into a SD. God bless you and your SD.

Submitted by Lacy | November 1 2009 |

Dawn, you are the reason the courts should make it illegal to fake having a service dog. I am disabled and have a service dog, and like you I'd have no qualms about turning you in to authorities just because you want your dog to fly on a plane with you. If you aren't comfortable putting it crated in the cargo hold, then don't fly and drive somewhere instead. It DOES harm us when people like you lie about having a service dog, if you honestly think it doesn't then you need your head checked.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 28 2010 |

Well said!

Submitted by Anonymous | November 8 2009 |

Good for you Dawn. Many within the disabled community use the ADA to run legalized extortion rackets, so I'm not getting all teary eyed when I hear others might game the system for no other reason but to protect their animals.

Submitted by Carolyn | October 30 2009 |

You know, I think "celebrity" dogs are exempted from flying in cargo too. I vaguely recall something about a highly-trained stunt dog flying in the cabin with its handler.

My small dog flies as in in-cabin pet under my seat, thankfully. We've done so for 8 yrs. and it's (mostly) gone very well. I'd never fly my dog if she had to go in cargo -- there have been too many horror stories to say nothing of the stress it must put on the animal to be in the hold.

I think it is great that service dogs are allowed with their person on flights. I think that others wishing to pay for a seat for their dog should be able to. People traveling with cellos or other large, fragile and valuable instruments can buy a seat for it. "Large, fragile and valuable" can pertain to dogs too (and I mean valuable in the sense of having worth beyond monetary). I sympathize with people who need to travel and would like to bring their dog but understandably balk at relegating it to freight.

Submitted by Julia Kamysz Lane | October 30 2009 |

I think it's unethical to lie - and risk the privileges of real service dogs and the people who truly need them - so as to allow your dog to travel in the cabin with you. That said, I understand the temptation to do so because of the fear of what happens to dogs who travel in cargo.

A former agility instructor of mine told me a horror story about traveling with her dog in cargo. The plane was preparing to take off and she had not received the ticket torn off of her dog's crate showing that her dog had been loaded. She refused to sit down until someone brought her that ticket. Flight attendants tried to persuade her that surely, her dog was on board and there was nothing to worry about, but she would not budge. Fifteen minutes and many dirty looks from fellow passengers later, she received the ticket and sat down. Thank goodness she insisted on getting proof otherwise who knows if her dog would've even been on board.

Submitted by Kasia | October 30 2009 |

It's a lie and it's unethical. But then there are also people abusing handicap card placards...
I don't think a cargo hold is a dangerous place - the problem is people don't care to crate-train their dogs before they fly.
And if you are really curious how "dangerous" flying pets in cargo really is - it's not a secret. The airlines are required to report all incidents since many years.

Submitted by Dee Amschler | October 30 2009 |

Faking a service dog hurts real service dog users. It's not just a matter of the dog's safety that needs to be kept in mind either when making the decision about who flies where - it's an issue of passenger safety and of the safety of any real service dogs. If show dogs and other competitor dogs do it who else is going to? Where does it stop? Will all these be dogs with proper training and socialization? Will they all have good health and proper immunizations? Every time a business - including an airport or airline - encounters a badly behaving, badly groomed, unhealthy or misbehaving dog being passed off as a service dog it makes life and access that much harder for the next person who comes through with a real service dog.

BTW, it's not the ADA that applies to air travel. Once you get past security at the airport, you're subject to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

Submitted by Service Dog Owner | October 31 2009 |

Fortunately Airlines are becoming wise to the fakers. Faking a disability for personal gain can be a felony in some cases and a misdemeanor in others. It's pretty obvious when a pet is being passed off for a dog with two years of advanced training.

So the choice is to go to your doctor and have him declare you seriously mentally ill (something that will follow you just like a criminal record) so you can have an emotional support animal, or risk confiscation of the fake service animal, fines, and or jail time for the offender.

Service dog owners are angry about the destruction of the reputation legitimate teams have spent 80 years building with pets that toilet indoors and otherwise behave unprofessionally. We're cracking down too, reporting fakers when we catch them. We, the disabled, aren't talking about the convenience of flying with a pet, but simply being able to fly at all. Don't take your petty issues with airlines out on the disabled.

Ten years ago functioning with my service animal was so much easier than it is now with so many fakers giving businesses bad experiences so they now look suspiciously upon even legitimate teams.

Shame on anyone so selfish as to steal from those who can least afford to be taken advantage of.

Submitted by Service Dog handler | October 31 2009 |

This is what people who fake their pets as Service Dogs are doing to real Service Dog handlers

http://www.psychdog.org/comm_talkback.html

Airlines are now requiring 48 hours advance notice and personal medical records/documentation from some Service Dog handlers because of the people who fake.

If anyone thinks that faking their pet as a Service Dog doesn't hurt real Service Dog handlers, you are mistaken.

In saying that, I do sympathise with pet owners who want to do the right thing for their pets and it's a shame airlines can't provide better options for pet owners, however they have safety regulations they need to follow.

Submitted by Dave | September 19 2013 |

No, airlines are not requiring 48 hour advance notice, they can request documentation 48 hours in advance but they rarely do as it would be more paperwork and time (money).

Submitted by CancerGirl | October 31 2009 |

As a Service Dog user for the last number of years (almost 10 now) I would like to say that those who fake their dogs being a SD to allow them to fly in the cabin with them DOES hurt people with legitimate service dogs. In fact, there are only a specific number of SD allowed on a plane, which is a first come first served basis. I have had it happen 2 different times that because of a large dog show happening in the area I was flyiing to, that I had to change the flight I was trying to book because the number of "service animals" had reached maximum capacity. My service dog was the last allowable on my flight as it was because of the national show that was apparently in the town I was flying to.

While I was boarding, I had 2 of the "service dogs" lunge at my dog, and both times that it happened I asked for the other dogs to be removed (oh and yes that can happen, in fact any dog who acts in a manner not resembling that of a SD can be asked to be removed from the flight and if the airline decides to criminal charges can be filed, as it is illegal in most states to misrepresent a SD).

Because of the large number of fakers out there the ACAA (airline carrier aseesability act) has recently made it a requirement to have a drs note written within the last 6 months if you are flying with a SD for an invisible disability (such as epilepsy, diabetes or any other disability not visibly seen). This has caused many people who should not have to revel their medical conditions (would you want to have to telleveryone your medical history?) and go through the extra trouble of making a extra dr visit to have their dr write a letter because others who are ignorant, rude and just plain idiots who decide that their fluffy is more important then a actually disabled persons MEDICAL EQUIPTMENT, which is what a SD is to a handicapped person. It would be the same as saying "because I want to not have to be inconveninced to walk the extra 50 yards or so, I will just park in a handicapped spot".

People witrh service animals spend a lot more fo their time they they should have to telling people who are too stupid to read the signs on their dogs not to pet them, telling parents of chilren who feel that my dog is there for their kids enjoyment to get their kids hands off my dog before I remove their hands from the dog for them, telling people not to call to my dog, not to try and distract my dog, then deling with the people who get mad because you tell them not to pet your dog. Service dogs are not therapy dogs who are being brought to the local wal mart to be pet by every other person who has their own dog and likes dogs to love on.

Anyone who fakes their dog as a SD to get on a plane should be regarded the same as someone who would ask a person in a wheelchair to just stand because well my rights and wants and needs are more important then yours and is just reprehensible and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

Submitted by PWDwSD | October 31 2009 |

I am a person with disabilities who has been partnered with service dogs for about ten years now. We have flown a good bit in that time and are well versed in both the ADA and the ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act which applies to air travel).

Certainly people love their dogs and don't want harm to come to them when they travel, however this is not justification to portray their pet dogs as service animals just to fly them in the cabin any more than it would be to put lights and sirens on their personal car just because they like to drive fast and make a lot of noise. The latter is actually a crime; the former ought to be since it involves circumventing a federal law.

A person's perception that their dog might be harmed if it travels in cargo is not a disability and that dog should not be traveling in the cabin unless the owner has made appropriate arrangements with the airline. There is nothing to prevent an airline from making special arrangements with pet dog owners.

In recent years the airlines requested changes to the ACAA because of the proliferation of "service dogs" that people were requesting access for on their flights. They wanted to be able to put service animals in cargo and/or charge a fee for transporting service animals to discourage nondisabled individuals from claiming their dogs were service animals. This would have posed significant hardships on persons with disabilities because they require the assistance of their service animals to safely reach the plane and to assist the, while they are in the terminals. Many PWDs are unemployed due to their disabilities and so adding additional fees would make air travel cost prohibitive.

A dog owner on the way to a dog show or performance event is pursuing a hobby and should be prepared to cover the costs of that hobby, including transporting their dog. I would personally like to see these people prosecuted for theft of services and/or fraud if they and/or their dog do not meet the ADA definitions.

If you feel the need to claim your pet is a service animal, please take a minute to poke out an eye or amputate a leg first, and then spend a year or more training the dog in service dog and public access skills before making your next plane reservation. If you're going to claim a right that the ADA has defined for persons with disabilities, then you ought to be willing to accept the responsibilities and limitations that PWDs live with too.

There is no justification for lying to get a pet dog on a plane. Drive to your destination, hire a dog transporter who drives the dog, or fly with one of the "Pet Air" carriers that are available. Don't add to the hassles that people with disabilities already experience by lying to get your pet dog into the cabin.

Submitted by Linden | October 31 2009 |

It is unethical. This sort of behavior has led to an ACAA regulation REQUIRING handlers flying with Psychiatric Service Dogs to submit a doctor's note and give the airlines 48 hours notice before flying.

Though this is clearly discriminatory, the ACAA feels justified because handlers of psychiatric service dogs often do not appear to be disabled, making it easy for fakers to circumvent the system for their own convenience by pretending to be disabled.

Each time someone does this causes damage with the public that will complicate the lives of the next legitimate service dog team.

Please, don't pretend you are disabled and pass your pet off as a service dog.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

As a person living with a disability that is not visually apparent, I am receiving the scorn of people who complain they want to bring their "PETS" everywhere too. I get so angry and intolerant of these people who are ignorant of the law and describe "service dogs" as being the same as household "pets."

Service dogs are NOT pets. They have special training and purposes to assist a person with a DOCUMENTED DISABILITY. A disability is not some half-ass thought by someone who wants to abuse the law. A disability MUST be documented and it must cause an impairment in some area of the persons life, whether chronically or episodically.

That said, I wish people who have to be so nosy and make frivolous complaints at stores would mind their own business. I have been to places where people hide in corners complaining. At this point, I would like those who complain about service dogs as being "pets" to come up and complain in MY FACE, so that I can give them the literature about the laws and reality check about people who live with disabilities.

For all I care, those people who have nothing better to do but to compare and complain service dogs as being the same as pets should grateful they don't live with disability. And should mind their own business.

Submitted by Linden | October 31 2009 |

People passing off their pets as service dogs do injure legitimate service dog teams.

Because of this behavior, the ACAA has a new regulation that requires a handler of a psychiatric service dog to submit a doctor's letter and to notify the airlines 48 hours in advance of the flight.

The ACAA discrimination has been made to seem justified precisely because people are pretending they are disabled in order to fly with their pet in cabin.

Passing your pet off as a service animal is unethical. Period.

Submitted by Catherine | June 15 2010 |

I myself have been diagnosed with a bipolar disorder (I always thought my symptoms were from menopause!) and have been having really severe panic attacks. A friend of mine had trained her Pomeranian to be a service dog and upon hearing of my diagnosis, offered Koda to me. I was not thrilled with the idea as I have a chihuahua puppy already (my greyhound passed from lymphoma last October - talk about going to extremes - from a 100 lb dog to a 7 lb dog lol). After having Koda for a three month trial period, I have found that when she is with me in public, I am somewhat more at ease around people/crowds. I still get panic attacks, finding a corner to cower in, but she snuggles in my lap, watching me intently all the while, making soft noises while I try to get past the attack and calm down. It really works! I brought her to my doctor and he was quite impressed with the results. I am appalled by those who think that a mental "illness" does not require a service dog. (I used to be one of them and it now disgusts me how narrow minded I was about this issue). I am even more appalled by those in authority who see a small dog such as a Pomeranian and do not allow me access to their properties even though she is properly tagged with identification, wears a service vest and is very well trained. I now carry a doctor's note for proof and it's somewhat embarrassing to hear the whispering and snickering about my illness and get angry when I hear "crazy" ... that is so disgusting and disrespectful but it happens all the time. Bipolar Disorder is genetic, with psychological symptoms that are treated quite well with medication and therapy. Really - do you think it is their business as to what my illness is? Do they walk up to someone in a wheelchair and ask why they are in it? They argue that she most certainly cannot be a service dog due to her size - Goodgrief! That is discrimination of the smaller breeds, in my opinion. However - I can now feel safe to walk through a very crowded Harvard Square or the North End or Chinatown (in Boston for those who are not familiar) with BOTH dogs and not have a problem! I am now in the process of training my chihuahua to also be a service dog (this breed is much harder to train as they have such a Napoleon Complex but wish me luck!!) We with mentally associated problems really need this help - at least, I do. People should really change their opinions. Just my two cents.

Submitted by Anonymous | August 10 2010 |

Catherine you do realize that you could be one very rich woman.... not saying that I condone suing for the smallest infraction but by law the establishment has no right to ask you what your disablity is only if you have one and if your dog is a service dog. If they are forcing you to show documentation that is against the law and you could fankly either have their job or their store... then let them see how "crazy" your lawyer will get with all the legal mumbo jumbo of discriminate this!

Submitted by Julie | October 31 2009 |

As a person who requires a service dog, I get to see first hand the effect that taking advantage of these laws has had on those who require the aid of these admirable animals. To be honest, airlines are not fond of allowing service dogs on their flights either, and the abuses of this allowance are only causing it to be more and more difficult for people who have to have their service dogs to fly at all. That said, I find the current system of packing dogs and other animals into the cargo hold like so much luggage to be deplorable, and I do completely understand the concern on the part of pet owners. I wish there was an easy answer.

Submitted by Jeanne Hampl | October 31 2009 |

First to clear up an error in the article. It is the Air Carrier Access Act(ACAA) not the ADA that allow service dogs to accompany their disabled handlers on flights. The service dog must occupy the foot space below the handler. People with disabilities do not buy an extra seat or actually foot space as the service dog is not allowed by the ACAA for a service dog to ride on a seat.

The law only allows for fully trained service animals.

It is fraudulent for a person to portray themselves as disabled to avail themselves of the rights granted to a person with a disability.

Jeanne Hampl

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

It's definitely unethical to 'play service dog'. Remember, every time someone does this, it makes it more difficult for true SD users to fly with their dogs. It's very unfortunate that the Air Carrier Access Act now allows airlines to ask questions, because it becomes more of an interrogation than a simple inquiry (as reported by SD users). Some even 'require proof', such as a doctors note. Is it fair that a person with a disability must 'prove' that he or she is disabled? That they must subject themselves to the humiliation of having to share private, medical details with someone they do not know at all? I think not.

The people trying to pass their pets off as Service Dogs need to be more considerate of the bigger picture.

I do agree, however, that the conditions our wonderful pet dogs are subjected to when flying in cargo are unacceptable as well. I personally opt not to fly... I drive with my dog. But there should be a better alternative offered by the airlines.

Submitted by Lou | October 31 2009 |

Anyone who fakes that there dog is a service dog should be ashamed. It makes discrimination toward people with disabilities that use service dogs far more likely. It's barbaric and sick.

Submitted by thetroubleis | October 31 2009 |

If you fake having a service dog, you are scum. I have a service dog in training, which means I don't have the legal right to airline flights with him and that's okay. When he's fully trained I will.

I do not have a service dog as some type of special perk, but instead because I need him to be able to live my life. When you fake having a service dog, you hurt real teams, who are already harassed by the public.

If I could get rid of my disabilities, I'd leave Figaro home in a red hot minute.

Depending on where you decide to fake, fines and jail time are possible. Is it really worth hurting people with disabilities just so Fluffy can ride in the cabin?

Responsible pet care would be getting airlines to allow you to buy a seat for your non medically necessary dog.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

I'm a guide dog handler and trainer and I know that those of us who use service dogs often get the blame for the untrained poor behavior of fake service dogs. It is unethical to try and pass a pet off as a service dog because it jeopardizes our rights and makes us look bad.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

Do everyone a favor, rather than tarnish the reputation of service dogs with your untrained dogs, fly them safely via Pet Airways http://petairways.com/

There is NO excuse for lying and passing your PET off as a service animal. There have been stricter regulations imposed as a result of people faking which discriminates against one type of service dog. Today it might be a psychiatric service dogs but next will be the medical, and others as people "adjust" their "disability" so fluffy can fly without charge or restriction.

If the pet airline isn't going to the same destination as you are planning and you don't want you pet in cargo, LEAVE YOUR PET HOME! If you are going to a show with your dog, drive instead. It doesn't matter how far it is. I've driven cross country so don't start whining it is too far. If you want to go to a show then do it morally. I wouldn't want to have to be on a flight near you with your fake service dog growling at my trained service dog the whole entire flight. Though I may be inclined to offer a muzzle and report you to the airlines to be sure you will not be welcome on the return flight.

Submitted by Alma Febus | November 9 2009 |

you guys r all right. I have seen this happen and it kills me. They should also ask to see if they have an ID that states that the person is dissable.. I have one and I show it when they asked me about my SD.

Submitted by Anonymous | October 31 2009 |

Well this is exactly why the ACAA has recently changed their guidelines requiring letters from doctors attesting to disability and need for service dog. This is a recent change and I do wonder how it will rock the show dog world.

Even if you are willing to commit fraud and pass your pet off as a service dog, are you going to go so low as to ask your doctor to diagnose you with some fake disability (a disability being something that severely limits an activitiy for daily living: breathing, walking, eating, tolieting, hearing, seeing, thinking) and ask your doc to commit fraud for your own travel ease?

Those fake certifications wont work either, by the way. It is very common knowledge to the airlines that they are fake.

I also want to correct the assumption that service dogs don't have to be trained and nobody can question that, even by the ADA. Any buisness can ask if you are disabled and what tasks your dog does to mitigate your disability (and this has to be more than comfort, companionship, or emotional support). If you are asked these questions and lie, you are impersonating a person with a disability and can be heald accountable for your crime.

In my opinion it is unethical and it does create issues for true service dog handlers wishing to access services.

Submitted by Syrensilly | October 31 2009 |

And then we wonder why the DOT does things like this:
http://www.psychdog.org/comm_talkback.html
At the rate we're going, it could come down to ALL SD users having to have a doctors note and advance notice.
Hello people wake up! Fakers DO hurt people with legitimate disabilities. If your dog is a pet, don't call it a service dog. it's illegal and unethical. Seriously, have people's morals slid so terribly?

Submitted by Anonymous | November 13 2009 |

Yes people's morals have slid that terribly. I live in a condo and it has a no pet policy. Recently, a few owners have obtained fraudulent service dog certification from a service dog scam site in Hawaii. It is infuriating because it is fraud. Government agencies designed to protect the disabled dismiss the fact it is such a site. What can one expect when a Gov't agency fails to act? It will result in ugly retribution to everyone with SDs based on the assumption that theirs must be bogus too since so many are. These sites must be shut down. it is the epitome of arrogance and selfishness to claim your "pet" is a SD.

Submitted by Carol F. King | November 2 2009 |

It is my opinion that the airlines have placed THEIR problem on the public, convinced DOT and FAA that it is the public's fault.

If transporting live animals in cargo were SAFE, then no one would feel a need to "fake a SD." So many animals have been mistreated, allowed to escape, and died traveling in cargo that the public KNOWS their animal has a good chance of dying traveling in cargo.

If an airline employee had to travel in cargo with each live animal shipped, things would change. After a few employees died, the airlines were sued "wrongful death", the airlines would get the temperature control and air pressure control in cargo as dependable as it is inside the cabin of the plane.

We would then see the "fake SD" on plane diminish. Airlines by making this a public problem have US fighting each other instead of dealing with the real issues. POOR QUALITY CONTROL BY THE AIRLINES IN CARGO.

I use an Assistance Dog, and I see what people are saying, I just see a different "root" of the problem.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 8 2009 |

Well put! I travel with a Service Dog and have commented more than once to my partner that I am so glad Buddy gets to fly with me because I would hate to have to put a dog in cargo. Buddy is getting older and I know it is not safe down there. I am sure there are lots of people who love their dogs and who are scared and worried about putting them in cargo and searching for an answer . . . another way . . . to make the trip safe for their beloved pet. If the AIRLINES changed how animals were transported this, too ,would change.

Submitted by Stephanie | November 18 2010 |

I'm in full agreement with you Carol!!! The Airlines need to take a little more responsibility when they carry living, breathing creatures.

As for 'fake ID'...tell me...what 'training' does my companion dog need and how much should I have to pay to whomever for a piece of paper??? My doctor prescribed him for me and my children obliged.

Someone...tell me again who I'm supposed to PAY for the privilege...

Submitted by ServiceDogTags.com | November 3 2009 |

While we understand the temptation of pet owners to do this, it is illegal to do so. We've been selling service dog IDs since 2006 and we suspect that it happens quite often. The airlines have become very strict about service dogs and they will ask for some form of documentation. Unfortunately there are companies charging over $350 to "Certify" your dog. If they have never seen and tested your dog then their ink-jet printer "Certification" isn't worth anything and these companies are just trying to take advantage of people for hundreds of dollars.

Submitted by ebdarby1957 | November 4 2009 |

I just recently took my first and last flight with my SD. Thank heaven she is a small 13 lb Schipperke. I was forced to move away from my family and hold the dog in my lap for the entire flight because there was no room at my feet for her to lay down. It happened on the flight going and coming home. I will never travel Delta Airlines again. She was wearing her vest. I had all her documentation and all of her vet records. It was a nightmare! And it is probably because people do try to pass their pets as service animals. Please people, think about the consequences we have to pay for your selfishness!!!!

Submitted by mandahg | November 5 2009 |

as someone who has been sorely tempted to label his dog a service animal in order that he might fly with me, i feel compelled to weigh in on this matter.

placing this question in a framework of ethics is a fundamentally flawed premise. it is never ethical ("responsible") to promote false assertions in pursuit of personal (yours or your dog's) transportation convenience or comfort, insofar as other remedies exist to achieve the transport goal. NO respectable ethicist worth her salt would tell you otherwise.

despite the clear ethical line, several times i have been to the verge of ethics-be-damned on this one; but the fact remains: options to the perceived dangers of cargo transport exist, however inconvenient or unpalatable we may find them. not a conundrum here, just a choice whether to ignore ethical boundaries.

some of the options i consider: a trusted and familiar secondary care-provider for our pet when we are out of town, driving (not always viable for cross-country hops) - and now, in direct response to the need for safe pet travel by air: the humble beginnings of airlines dedicated to pets (limited routes, unfortunately).

nevertheless, decrying "false service dog" people as "barbaric and sick" is just melodramatic overkill, preposterous, and above all, downright silly. people grow attached to their pets, and would no sooner put them in cargo than they would their baby. this sentiment does nothing to decrease the legitimacy of true service pets, nor does it "increase discrimination" against service dogs.

the solution is simple: require credentials for any animal to fly in the airplane cabin. in a manner similar to the placards that guarantee those who need special parking, those who need service dogs can be amply served by a level of documentation sufficient to discourage those who would otherwise unethically take advantage of the situation.

on the other hand, those of us who feel the airlines provide grossly inadequate transport options for our pets would be best served by a) lobbying the airlines and other relevant resources to improve the situation b) supporting (most effectively, as paying customers) pet-friendly transport companies/airlines or better yet c) investing our resources in the development of a broad, competitive swath of pet-friendly transport options.

from a pet safety perspective: my dog will never fly in cargo: the little one flies in-cabin in a carrier with me; we make other arrangements for the big dog. from an ethical perspective: despite my sadness at not having the big dog with me, i won't ever falsify his credentials for the sake of my convenience.

Submitted by sabrina | November 10 2009 |

Thank you for the most coherent and reasonable comment on here.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 8 2009 |

It is interesting that those of us who need psychiatric service dogs are discriminated against, both by the Americans with Disabilities Act and by the Air Carrier Access Act. It is absolutely unfair that I have to produce documentation to fly stating that I am mentally ill. I already have papers from a doctor stating that I have a chronic medical disability, but it is not enough for some airlines. I, too, deplore transporting show dogs or pets by passing them off as service dogs, but I believe I should be treated equally with someone with a physical disability. I am absolutely unable to leave the house without my dog. He is trained to come and provide tactile stimulation to ward off panic attacks and - here is where I truly qualify under the ADA - I need him to provide balance and mobility because of the medications I am on.

It is time for the mentally ill to be treated equally. My dog, besides being trained, is very well behaved. We have traveled before on Southwest - they are great - but other airlines are not so good.

So I ask that all of you respect me need for a service dog; my illness is horrible and my dog is a wonderful ally for me.

Submitted by Catherine | June 15 2010 |

I totally agree with you !!!! I myself have a debilitating mental illness and because my service/therapy dog is a Pomeranian I get so much flack because she is small and "cannot possibly be a service dog". Ridiculous!

Submitted by Anonymous | August 21 2011 |

You may want to consider a vest the states that your dog is a mobility dog. A balance harness would help, as well. Psychiatric disorders cannot usually be helped by training a dog to perform a specific task which is required of a service dog. Otherwise, everyone would just bring their dogs everywhere and say they help them feel better.

Submitted by doc | November 8 2009 |

There seems to be a trend here and on other blogs. Those with the most disability are not out there writing letters and blaming others. I have not seen any responses from the blind, those with SD for Medical Alert (DM, Siezures, etc) I am an MD so I am well aware of dogs servicing mental health issues. I love both my dogs, they go everywhere with me I would be devistatewd if something should happen to the older Golden, but he is not a SD. What I see and hear are people complaining that they are against certification..why...they then go on to talk about the need to take psyhiatric dogs with them.
Why would anyone be afriad to carry a cocument with them indication thier need for a SD...a diagnosis? It is not plastered on you shirt, just for the authorities to see. Handicap parking permits are just as abused. Every see the guy get of his motorcycle after parking in one ? Or the guy wearing the dirty baseball uniform after a game get out of his car? And we need certification for that. Nothing is perfect. I have a disease that is not readily noticable to others , until I fall to the floor. I carry a medical tag so that I can obtain quick help when needed. I have a SD (a 45# PWD) trained to alert. She is not all "Tricked out" in vests,specisl handles and backpacks to look obvious and official. She has an IdD card and a small pouch that has a Medical Alert badge on it That's it. She only flies when I am alone....todate....not yet...has a flight in Jan. Never goes into Restaurants, etc, and she is none allergic.
That cartoon with the 3 doors is crazy....if you are disabled, you are, if not so be it. If you have a dog that you take on a plane because you are afraid to fly, pay thr fee and take it in a handbag or carrier, but don't trick it out...a mini dog in a vest, come'on! And I realize that many dogs serve no purpose while actually on the plane, they have to be with the owner. Look, I am a physician, and I am well aware of the human psychi .... but when it come to disability there are many who take advantage and who blow thing out of proportion...if you do not want to have your diagnosis out there than why woulkd you make your dog look like it was at a perpetual Holoween party ? Think about others, allow laws to be made, and don't get angry at people who question the use of a minidog, that can go in a carrier, yet, it's owner takes it on as a SD and takes the place of a dog that does have to be on the plane. It is the more obvious SD owners that seem to make the most noise and it is those who don't want the world to know the diagnosis that put blinking lights on thier animals.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 9 2009 |

"Every see the guy get of his motorcycle after parking in one ? "

You're a physician and you don't think disabled people can ride motorcycles? My father-in-law has a handicap badge on his bike - he's got crippling arthritis - but that doesn't prevent him from riding his bike. He can walk, just not very far.

I find it interesting that you judge others they way you do - especially since you "have a disease that is not readily noticable to others..."

Submitted by Anonymous | November 8 2009 |

My dog has a service dog jacket and he is a service dog for me but not because I have a disability. I am a professional trainer, and my dog is my primary working companion. He provides a huge service to me and does go everywhere with me. I need him as much as a handicapped person needs their dog. I need him as well trained in variable situations as anyone with a handicap.

I wish this country was more like England where dogs are welcome everywhere. I'm all for anyone, with a well balanced and trained dog getting a service dog jacket if that's what it takes to be able to have their dog with them more.

Their lives are too precious and too short to not take advantage of all the time together that we can.

Who's to say that only handicapped individuals have the right to have their dogs with them. I think that's predjudice so I have to do what's right for me, and my dog.

Submitted by Nadja | November 9 2009 |

I can't say it has not crossed my mind... and would it be hurting those who really have and need their service dogs?
Probably only if abuse would result in stricter regulations.
But, as I said, i can't imagine my puppy in cargo and do understand people who do it.

Submitted by Brandon | November 10 2009 |

if you want your dog to be safe then you will do anything to do that.

Submitted by Anonymous | November 15 2009 |

Here's how I see it in terms of ethics:

The facts are:
Sometimes flying cannot be avoided, driving is not always an option.
Sometimes dogs die or are lost when they are put in cargo. They are almost certainly distressed. Thus they are being harmed to some degree, and at risk of severe harm.
Having a poorly trained, badly behaving dog being passed off as a service dog harms the owners of true service dogs.
A poorly trained dog puts other people and service dogs at risk of bites.

Thus I believe that if you have a healthy (as certified by a vet) very well trained (therapy dog QUALIFIED / obedience trained to a Utility Dog Title, or AT LEAST a canine good citizen award )if you brought them on the plane as a service dog you would be behaving ethically, assuming you have reason to believe that there is a substantial risk to your dog in cargo.

Why? It does not harm real service dog owners if your dog is as well behaved as theirs.

If you are doing something to avoid harming a living thing and not causing harm to anyone else you are are behaving ethically.

Submitted by Anonymous | May 14 2012 |

you need to read the ADA Law about service dogs. What is needed is for prosecutions to take place for wrongly identifying a dog as a service dog , FELONY.
If the accuser makes a mistake, he or his company pays through the nose, if he is right, the perpetrator goes to prison.

I was offered a fully trained, by someone else and not to my needs service dog. A friend accepted the same offer. He is still trying to get the dog to suit his needs after 2 years. My self trained dog does his work perfectly ans actually has a fun personality.

Submitted by Jenni | November 16 2009 |

I say go for it. Of course if it were me I wouldn't give a plug nickel to any business- airline or other than wouldn't let me have my dog on board with me at least in a carrier. I'd drive. But for those who don't have that option go for it. The policy is ridiculous dogs aren't cargo and as for the mention of condos what kind of fool can't see how much good dogs do people? Break the rules. Why not? Whether it's the administration lying to people or cops planting evidence the entire justice system is a joke, all we want are our family members not treated like crap. Nothing compared to these other people's law breaking. It seems a reasonable request, that if you can't honor it like a reasonable person I see no reason to remain reasonable with you. As for giving service dogs a bad name not only is their reputation not my job but what are the service industry people doing to help us get access for our dogs? Quid pro quo my friends. Your dogs no matter how "specially trained for x years" are still dogs- just like mine. I just didn't pay the right payoff and kiss the right a** to get the paperwork you did. That paperwork says nothing other than you made the right payoffs and you need to realize that. Your dog is no better than mine- they are all special and they all deserve to be with their people.

Submitted by Jen | June 11 2012 |

Actually, Jenni, I did not kiss ass to get my disability. I would LOVE for you to have to experience the physical pain I suffer from every day and have to try and live your life with what I deal with everyday. Your dog is not specially trained to do anything to help you and, if you're not disabled, you do not have the right or the need to bring your dog into public or on the plane. We don't have to pay anyone to get our dogs unless we are paying someone else to train them. We can train our own dogs if we have the time and the ability. Also, there is no certification or any paperwork of the sort to have a service dog, so we don't need to pay anyone off to get said paperwork. Yes, they are still dogs, but they are not just like any other dog. They ARE trained, which not every dog is. They also need to have a specific temperament that can't be trained, otherwise they probably will "wash out" and not finish training as a service dog. So no, your dog more than likely wouldn't cut it as a service dog and thus has no business being in public. The proper temperament is not all that common and it DOES take a while to train a dog to be controllable and well behaved in public. It would make going out in public unpleasant and often dangerous if everyone and their dog was allowed out in public regardless of if they're a service dog or not. There are just too many irresponsible owners and ill behaved dogs that can and will bite people because they were poorly socialized. Your post only shows how utterly ignorant you area.

Submitted by Patricia | November 17 2009 |

So easy to judge others!

But when you have a an older dog, or whatever your dog is (recently in surgery, spoiled, etc) I bet there will be many excuses.

IMO, there should be new regulation that allow pets to travel in the cabin if:

A. There is a powerful reason (age, health issues, something like this)
B. The owner can submit the dog to a behavioral evaluation or prove the dog will probably not disturb the other passengers.
C. The owner pays an amount of money, so his pet can get this luxury.

This way, nobody would be "abusing" the system.

The system says that animals are objects.

And I am afraid I disagree with the system on this. A pet is not the couch that you wrap up and send in cargo..

At least not my pets, sorry.

Submitted by Jill | November 18 2009 |

I have always had a problem with people who believe the rules don't apply to them. However, I believe that if they can break/bend the rules without suffering a crisis of conscience, then the guilt or lack thereof is their issue. Having said that, there are some people who suffer from "invisible illnesses" that may not be an obvious disability when you see them, but actually requires more assistance. So if the "offenders" are not truly in need of a service dog, then that issue is between them and their higher power.

Submitted by Anonymous | December 3 2009 |

A service dog is a legally defined animal that provides one or more trained tasks that mitigate the effects of a specific disability. If you the human owner and handler do not meet the legal definition of a person with a disability, then no matter how warm and fuzzy your dog makes you feel, your dog isn't a service dog and you by claiming your dog as a service dog are committing fraud and there are monetary as well as legal reprecussions for misrepresenting yourself and your dog. No, a service dog in training and a service dog for someone else do are not entitled to in cabin travel. They are only entitled to in cabin travel as a service dog or a medically necessary emotional support dog when accompaning the person with a disability. The Federal Air Carrier Act does allow the Airline to request written documentation showing that your dog is a service dog and that you are a person with a disability or the dog is a medically prescribed emotional support dog. I personally will be happy to supply the airline with a certificate of training, shot records, and a prescription from my doctor stating that my service dog has been prescribed to perform tasks, x,y, and z for me and a statement that I am a person with a disability per the definition of the American with Disabilities Act. Are you posers willing to go that far?
People who commit fraud by misrepresenting themselves as a person with disabilities and their dog as a service dog when it isn't make life harder on those with legitimate service dogs and personally I am willing to provide more documentation than legally required to catch a few of them and make public examples of them.

Submitted by Ann | April 6 2010 |

You seem like a very bitter person "willing to provide more documentation than legally required to catch a few of them and make public examples of them." Some people really love their dogs like family and want to be sure they travel safely. No matter what airlines tell you, cargo has many risks. I even had a dog shipped from South Africa and the stupid, incompetent airline lost my dog for 24 hours sending me into an unimaginable panic. No one wants a disabled person with a service dog to receive any less respect or privileges. What they do want is to have peace of mind for the safe travel of their own pets. From what I have read everyone here has agreed that the disabled deserve the rights given to them. You however have not even tried to understand why others go to extremes to protect their beloved pets. You are responding in anger wanting only punishment for the offenders suggesting you care very little about the welfare of the dogs of either party and more about some perceived injustice.

Submitted by Service Dog Handler | December 14 2009 |

Given that dogs can and have died flying cargo,I can understand why a person would want to pass their dog off as a Service Dog. Pet dog and/or show dog owners are acting in the best interest of their dog. However this does not remedy the situation.
The Air Carriers are the ones who need to be regulated correctly to ensure the safety of any animal.
As a person in medical need of a service dog, I see how passing off a pet as a Service Dog has the potential to undermine the rights of those who are in need.
The standards for my Service Dog to be legally recognized have been met. I do carry a Dr.'s letter and vet requirement letters with me for travel purposes. The reason for my need for a Service Dog is no one else's business other than mine and my Dr. No one else needs to know why. It is a matter of privacy and discrimination.
Due to the size of my Service Dog he must travel in the cargo section, which at present limits my options for travel. My Service Dog ought to be able to travel with me regardless of his size. I have a medical need for him and it doesn't magically disappear on a plane. In fact my medical need becomes greater.
High standards are a must and ought to be law to ensure the safety of any animal being transported. Access to one's animal being one of the conditions enforced. I too would then feel comfortable traveling by air with my Service Dog. Thus rendering passing of a dog as a Service Dog a mute point.
I think this would satisfy both Service Dog handlers and pet owners with no reason to make things more difficult for Service Dog handlers. I ask that those who are not in legitimate need of a Service Dog not to pass their dog off as one because in doing so my human rights are being compromised.

Submitted by Ara Poochie's H... | December 17 2009 |

I don't even want to read the whole thing. It is so sick! It creates more problems for someone like me where people say, "How do we know it is a service dog? It is a wiener dog!"

Submitted by Rita Younger | December 30 2009 |

My service dog has traveled with me all over the United States. Without her I am absolutely unable to leave my home even for short shopping trips. The first time my service dog or me are inconvenienced or bumped from a flight so one of those inbred show dogs can have our seat, you can rest assured I will own that mutt, the owner of that mutt, and the airline that allowed it to happen!! Enough is enough! A service dog is not a pet or a luxury. A service dog is an extenion of a disabled person. Go ahead, step on my rights! I am ready for you!!!!!

Submitted by Katy | December 30 2009 |

Do you have any idea how disgustingly ignorant so many posts on this board are? I was most affronted by Jenni's, but many people are subscribing to her unacceptable mindset.

Service Dogs are NOT pets.

I did not "kiss ass" to get my DISABILITY, thank you very much!
I live 24/7 with a debilitating condition. I can not function on my own. Therefore, to allow me to have some sense of independance, to allow me to attend college so that I'm NOT mooching off of YOUR taxpayer dollars for the rest of my life, I have EMPLOYED a Service Dog.
I payed for my Service Dog by working to have exceptional grades in highschool so that I could apply to scholarships and grants, eventually accumulating over 10,000$ from my own hard work, despite constant doctor's appointments, hospitalizations and medications.

What is imporant here is that dogs do not have rights. Not your pet dog, not your show dog, not my service dog. But I as a Disabled Person under the AODA, DO have rights that allow me to be accompanied by a Service Dog wherever I choose to go. (Certain places are excempt from the AODO including: Laboratories, Sterile Operation Rooms, Zoos, and Churchs .)

I spent a year and a half waiting for my dog while she was trained. I spent 5000$ on a Certified Trainer who is registered with the I.A.A.D.P. and the Canadian Service Dog Registry. I have proof of disability, I have doctor's notes from not only my Family Doctor, but my Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Counsellor and my dog's Certified Trainer who is also a registered Psychologist.

You still think I "kissed ass" to get that paperwork?

Also, it is not a Service Dog Organization's responsibility to help you get access or better quality accomodations for your "pets". Considering the amount of prejudice faced every day by disabled persons working with Service Dogs, do you not think that these organizations are busy enough? Besides which there is a much larger organization dedicated to pets: The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Commonly known as: The S.P.C.A.. If you have an issue with how your PET is being treated by an airline, you take it to them, not to a Service Dog organization that is not affiliated by nature or by mandate to your PET.

My mom helps me figure out my moods a lot, and helps me chart how my meds affect me - does that mean she can call herself a doctor? NO. So your life may be ENRICHED by your PET, but my life is ENABLED by my SERVICE DOG.
My dog is a dog, just like yours, yes. But unlike your pet, my Service Dog provides an essential service.

I hope that I have managed to educate you on the difference between a Service Dog and your pet. If you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me at kittykatty8@hotmail.com or visit my trainer's website at www.bakerdogbehavioralcentre.com .

I sincerely hope that cargo conditions will be vastly improved so that pets may travel safely as I truly believe every pet owner posting on this board, however misguided about Service Dogs, is only working to provide safety for their pet.
I also commend airline companies forming specifically for pet travel. A fabulous idea indeed!

PLEASE RESEARCH ALL OF YOUR OPTIONS FOR TRAVELLING WITH YOUR PET BEFORE COMMITTING FRAUD OR IMPERSONATION - BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT YOU'RE DOING WHEN YOU CLAIM YOUR PET IS A SERVICE DOG. You can and will be charged upwards of $50,000 WHEN (not if) you get caught.

Submitted by Friend of Servi... | April 3 2010 |

Yes, calling a companion, show or working farm dog a "service dog" to get the privileges extended to such dogs (access to public places normally off limits to dogs) IS UNETHICAL and a diservice to those animals serving those with disablities as well as those who rely on srvice dogs to move thru their days.

But at several thousand dollars ($6000 with our area training programme) to have a service dog placed with an individual with a disablity is out of reach for many in need.

Can people with disabilities train their own dogs? Yes.

Should we have some sort of verification procedures in place to identify such individuals and dogs? Perhaps this is the answer...

A local homeless man was fined after becaming disorderly for bringing his dog into a fast food restaraunt, claiming it was a service dog who alerted him to pending seizures. He did not win his case in court.

Just as I must pay for driving lessons, take an exam and renew my license every few years for a small fee - I wonder if the same could happen with "home-trained" service dogs. A regional licensing authority where the individual takes her/his dog to show what the dog can do - coupled with a confirmed diagnosis that the individual is claiming from a health care provider. An annual/biennial license granted to the individual employing the services of a service dog to present when asked.

Tough question and one worth exploring.

I've known CCI trained dogs and self-trained service dogs.

As much as I would LOVE to take my dog EVERYWHERE with me (wouldn't we all?!) I think it a system not to abuse or use carelessly.

Submitted by Kate | April 4 2010 |

For those on this post who are disabled, CALM DOWN! We get why you have a dog. No one marginalizes your disablity. We want your rights to remain intact. But reading some posts here, most of you act as if you can't book a flight because of posers with pets.

I fly a lot for my job, roughtly six months out of the year. During this time, I might have seen one, maybe two people with service dogs real or not. Anyone here ever have the airlines tell you, "Sorry, two Dalmation-mixes are already booked on Flight 323..." I think not.

That said, I put the responsiblity of the airlines to improve their pet policies, namely no dogs in cargo. Service animals and well-behaved pets should be able to fly together. Period. People with allergies (we neglected this group), bone up and get Zyrtec.

Submitted by Signted-Spouse | April 15 2013 |

When you're constantly challenged on your right to be in a place, maybe you'll reassess your opinion. "Is your dog REALLY a service dog?" or even "How much vision do you have?" (e.g. testing if the person REALLY needs a service dog), all of which are demeaning.

Submitted by KC | April 11 2010 |

The language of the previous posts supports the passionate views and emotions of all of us who fly and have dogs be they service dogs, therapy dogs, show dogs, or pets. The point here should be to recognize how much this issue means to everyone that has chimed in, and of course there are more out there that haven’t. There exists a wide base of people that care about this issue. The question should now move beyond the myriad of reasons that people have for falsely flying dogs as service animals to lobbying the airlines and government for a change in flight policies for dogs period.

I am someone who always believed I would never fly my medium size dog, once he grew too big to fly in the little pet carrier as a small puppy. But circumstances change, situations change, and after an extended illness and other complications I was faced with needing to fly him if we were going to make it a particular destination in time: the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. He flew in a custom built kennel, under the plane and only after I spent days and days researching each airline and all the airline animal handling and transport accident and fatality reports for the past five years.

Already this seems to point to the problem in the current system for dog travel on airline: how many of us would ever fly ourselves if we first needed to research every single airline and their handling of human passengers before deciding to book a ticket? The fact is none of us should ever be put in this position. We should all be able to fly with our loved ones at our sides on any airline that offers the best options for our travel.

As it was, I am pleased to report that our experience was positive and I have since had to fly him twice more (as cargo) in his custom kennel while I flew in the cabin, and again we had a fine experience each time. Yes, I felt a great twinge of jealousy leaving the show in New York as I watched a Springer Spaniel in glorious show coat don a service animal vest and slip into line for security just after I’d checked my boy as cargo, but at least I could try to comfort myself knowing that my dog should be able to get some rest sprawled out in his kennel while the Spaniel (that was clearly a show dog and not a service animal) would likely have to endure a trip of suffering, laying on a filthy cabin floor and being stepped on by a myriad of passengers and attendants tripping through the narrow airplane.

Do I understand why those owners would impersonate having a service animal? Absolutely. Do I admire them for having the guts to do it and pull it off? A little. Would I do it myself? I don’t think so. And here’s where I get really angry though, why should I even have to? Why isn’t there a safe way for me and others like me that need to travel and want the safest passage for their pets (travel in the cabin with the owner) to be able to fly on an airplane together without having to resort to ‘cheating the system’? Why are our rights as dog owners and travelers being overlooked, ignored, and generally disregarded by the airline industry? Where is the ethical blame, really?

It is unethical that the airlines do not offer a safe, white glove, temperature controlled, in view of the owner, year-round travel option for travelers with pets of all sizes.

Last week, due to my work schedule, my dog (who is ranked number three in the country for his breed) and I were unable to make the two day (each way) drive to the national breed club show. I decided to fly. But, it turned out we were unable to fly because the temperatures in a city where we had a scheduled 90 minute plane change and lay over were expected to be above the 85 degree embargo that this airline imposes (on all breeds, not just snub noses, which actually are embargoed at a lower temperature). In fact, when I talked to the airline on the phone they said that even if we went to the airport, we would not have be allowed to board.

Ironically, this was not the airline that I’d flown before, and I had a few misgivings anyway, so I ended up being fine with this… except that the fact remains, there is really no ‘ethically’ or ‘justifiable’ reason that I can see as to why I should not be able to bring my well groomed and well behaved dog on the plane with me. These laws are asinine and they interfere with my civil liberties and travel options.

If you’re wondering why I hadn’t booked on the airline that we’d used before, which also happens to be the only airline that flies pets year round and does not require a temperature acclimatization certificate from a veterinarian because they guarantee temperature control at all stages of the pets travel… Well, it was because they did not offer any flights to the final destination on a plane that was equipped to carry live animals as cargo (a temperature controlled and pressurized cargo area are required) and the small jet they were using for that leg of the journey did not have it.

If a solution to safe, healthy, and comfortable air travel for pets in the presence of the owner means making an inlet space available at the rear or front of the cabin where a crate can be secured by strapping it in, that’s fine.

If it means letting more dogs travel in the cabin by sitting with their people that’s fine too.

The point is that ethically speaking safe travel does need to be offered. It currently is not – and that is the real ethics violation.

In discussion of bringing more dogs into the cabin, it is meaningless to bring up issues of allergies because a precedent has already been established that service animals are allowed on board and small animals – including dog, cats, and birds are also allowed on board. The current restrictions have absolutely nothing to do with concerns for allergies.

The idea of where the pets will relieve themselves also should not be an argument for in cabin pet travel. Most pets are trained in the proper place and time to take care of this business. But, where do babies, toddlers, and incontinent people relieve themselves on a plane? If I had to dress my dog in a diaper or train him to use a pee pad in order to bring him on board with me, I gladly would. I’m sure others would too.

As to those nay sayers out there that will cite bite or insurance risks, I am confident that I am not alone when I say, that although I know that there is very slim chance that my Therapy Dog licensed, Canine Good Citizen, AKC Champion, and working now in obedience and agility, dog would ever pose a risk to another I am perfectly fine to support a temperament test requirement for dogs traveling in cabin.

However, I would gladly put my assurances and temperament tests to the side and elevate all possible insurance concerns and legal risks by having the dogs wear a muzzle. As sad as the looks on their faces might be, since it would only be temporary during the duration of a flight, as long as they were allowed to ride in the plane next to their people rather than in a kennel underneath, I’m sure dogs and owners would cope.

I am sure there are others out there that would also gladly trade a muzzle and room in the cabin for the dogs for the current kennel ride underneath if that is what it takes to make insurance companies happy. And on the bright side, I actually think that requiring all the dogs to be muzzled when on board would might really be in their best interest because it would protect them from other dogs that might not be as well trained or socialized and it would certainly protect them and their owners from any chance of a malicious passenger or false lawsuits.

The issue of whether to allow people to purchase an additional seat already has precedent too. Musicians and athletes are able to purchase extra seats for their fragile instruments and equipment, and some airlines require very large persons to purchase additional seats for themselves! It would actually be less expensive to purchase a seat for my medium size dog than it is to fly him in his kennel as cargo.

There have been a few posts here that have pointed to the ‘pet friendly’ airline options. The first problem here is of course that these airlines rarely stay in business. They have inconvenient flight schedules and do not service many of the major airports. Besides all that, they still require that the owner drop the pet off to be cared for by strangers and then what’s more, they exercise the pets taking them in and out of their kennels. I don’t know about the rest of you, but in a stressful and heightened risk environment such as airport travel, the last thing I would want to worry about is my dog slipping away from a well-meaning, but potentially scary handler that he doesn’t know.

Ultimately the current system is flawed. It is not the owners that ‘violate ethics’ by impersonating traveling with a service animal that are to blame. They are simply a product of the real flaw: the airline industry and involved government agencies.

These organizations are unethical because they do not offer a safe and viable means for medium to large size dogs to be transported by air year-round. Many airlines impose embargoes (for the safety of the animals in extreme temperature this is a good thing) and others simply refuse to fly animals in cargo or as luggage at all because they don’t want to deal with it.

But why should outside temperatures be an issue at all? Why shouldn’t our dogs be able to travel in safe temperature controlled environments like we do ever step of the way? This is an ethical issue, is it not?

There are actually relatively few airlines that will accept dogs under the plane, and (again) this is only an option during certain times of the year and of course, it is only available on planes that meet the required specs for live animals to travel underneath.

Did you know that even highly trained and valuable search and rescue and fire and police dogs are not allowed to fly in the cabin? It’s true. They may ‘legally’ travel in the cabin with their handler only when they are flying to an assignment. Otherwise, when the mission is complete and they are flying home, they must fly cargo. The same is true for service animals. If the animal is with the person that they serve, they may fly in cabin, but if a trainer or family member is transporting the animal for some reason, then the dog ‘legally’ must fly cargo.

So, in essence with the current system, the airlines have such limited travel options, they disregard the high level of training on some of the most specialized dogs out there, and it seems then that it is little wonder that they have no regard for the show dogs and pets that also need to travel. Even for those that might be willing to fly a dog in cargo, the ethical rights of an air traveler with a medium to large size dog are violated because there is no guarantee for the safety and well being of that animal.

Here are the current ‘ethics’ of pet travel for those animals that are larger than 15 pounds and must therefore fly under the plane:
1. the owner surrenders his/her dog to the custody of the airline for a booking fee of around $400 for an average 60 pound, medium sized dog in an average 500 size crate.
2. The airline makes no guarantee of the condition that the animal will be in when the owner picks him/her up.
3. The airline makes no guarantee to control the temperatures that the animal will be exposed to (which is why the owner must have veterinarian complete a ‘certificate of acclimation’ assuring that the animal is capable of with standing extreme temperatures).
4. The airline will not allow the animal to continue the journey if temperature rise above 85 degrees, therefore if a layover was scheduled or if a surprise heat wave hits the departure points the travelers may find themselves stuck.
5. The airline will not allow the owner to exercise, inspect, or even peek at the animal during scheduled layovers or unscheduled delays, unless the owner agrees to sign the dog out from the airline’s custody and then go through the entire booking process, including paying a second booking fee, in order to resume travel.

Ethics? It is not the people with the guts and the means to impersonate having a service animal that violate ethics. It is the airlines that rape their travelers that fly with dogs by allowing them to fly only on the condition that the airline violate the owners rights to supervise the care and environment for their animals, while at the same time charging the travelers exorbitant prices and offering no guarantees.

It is my hope that the travelers and dog lovers that have taken the time to post on this site will turn their passion from the vitriolic attacks and jibes at one another to writing letters and lobbying the airline industry and their government representatives.

Demand fair changes that will ethically met the needs of air travelers with dogs by requiring the airlines to open cabin travel up to travelers with dogs.

Submitted by ann zimmerman | January 24 2011 |

i am a writer doing an article on flying with dogs and was wondering if i could contact you directly to ask you more questions about your post?
ann.zimmerman@wsj.com

Submitted by Anonymous | August 15 2011 |

sorry, but some of this is inaccurate and needs clarification. Lufthansa, for just one example, provides climate controlled areas for pets. that means you can fly anytime of the year, regardless of outside temperature. Pet owners should also reseacrh which airlines fly pets as cargo, and which as baggage.

Also, anyone flying on the same flight as their pet should ALWAYS schedule a direct flight. Of course it is much more expensive, but, considering the risks of NOT flying direct, I consider it a necessary cost, much like going to the vet.

Submitted by SW | April 14 2010 |

There are limits on the number of in-cabin animals allowed regardless of size!!! Also, do you really think that those greedy airlines who don't give us enough space & charge to check our luggage will give up space for crated dogs??? My Guide Dog weighs 58 pounds, and she barely fits when we fly. Just because a dog shows or runs agility or is a therapy dog doesn't mean it should have access, many of them have behavioral issues just as any pet dog might. Keep your pets out of the cabins!!!

Submitted by Ann | April 18 2010 |

Wow! I am sorry you feel that way. I guess your dog is just a tool.

Submitted by Anonymous | April 2 2011 |

In some Respects the SD is like a tool... Like a cane or a wheelchair or sz or bg monitor or a hearing aid or glasses. A tool to assist in opening or closing a door or picking up a dropped item or carrying or handing an item. Yes they can be very helpful tools!

Submitted by Anonymous | April 25 2010 |

Recently I attended the AKC National Agility Championship in Tulsa, Okalohoma. I was disgusted with the number of participants in this event that passed their agility dogs off as 'Service Dogs' so they could fly their pet for free. I can't believe that the AKC would allow this behavior, as it is a bad reflection on them. How can the airlines turn their head and allow this disgrace to happen? In the long run, it is going to hurt the legitimate Service Dogs and their owners. I don't understand why the airlines can't require to see documentation that the dog is a 'Service Dog'. There are so many dog show participants that fly their dogs the proper way, and this behavior is only going to hurt the legitimate Service Dogs. It literally made me ill to witness this outright disgrace, flying in and out of Tulsa. I'm sure this goes on every weekend, where ever there are dog shows around the country. I can only hope that this behavior can be stopped before it truly hurts the true 'Service Dogs' and their owners.

Submitted by Jen | June 11 2012 |

I agree that behavior like this can make life harder for those of us with legitimate service dogs, but they cannot require paperwork or anything of the sort from me or any other service dog handler (except for PSDs, which I don't agree with). I don't want to have to provide paperwork to gain access to places and services that any other person can access without having to provide any info. It is discrimination against me and makes my life harder. That, in my view, is counterproductive because the dog is meant to make my life easier, not harder.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 19 2010 |

Can anyone point to any actual state/federal laws that impose fines or jail time on service dog impersonators? Besides just vaguely saying that you can be subject to HUGE fines and prison, can anyone actually cite to code?

Submitted by Cercules | March 3 2011 |

Did you get an answer to your question about finding specific laws regarding service dog impersonators or impersonators of individuals with disabilities? If you did will you email me the info at cercules@comcast.net

Submitted by Anonymous | July 19 2010 |

Under U.S. law, persons with therapy dogs are NOT granted the right to enter businesses with their dogs which do not permit pets. They do not get to fly in the cabins of aircraft because they are therapy dogs, nor do they get to live in "no pets" housing because they are therapy dogs.

Dogs used for emotional support, that are not task-trained, are called emotional support animals. They are not service dogs.

Submitted by Rita | August 19 2010 |

Look, I work for a major airline and I can't tell you how often people pose their pets as service animals, and there is very little we can do to challenge them. We literally have our hands tied. I can't believe that there is such a loophole here. There is so much abuse of the system that it's just ridiculous and it undermines those people who have a true disability and their valid need for a legitimate service animal. Something needs to be done because these fake untrained "service animals" that people are bringing inside the cabin without a kennel not only inconvenience the passengers around them but could also potentially harm them. We need more regulation please!

Submitted by AJH | August 28 2010 |

I have spent time reading all of these posts. I just learned that a relative...someone I am not close to at all...passes his great dane off as a service dog so he and his wife can fly with her.
They spent hundreds on 'fake papers'--and successfully flew last week and will return to their home in a week or two.
HOW do you combat this? Please...as someone who lives with a serious disease, I myself would love to have a trained service dog and for someone to mock or defy the system by committing such fraud, I'm sickened. Isn't there ANYTHING we can do? Isn't this against the law?? Help!

Submitted by Anonymous | November 2 2010 |

What do you care if someone is passing their dog off as a service dog? It doesn't affect you at all. It certainly isn't "mocking" you. It actually has nothing to do with you. Some people just want their dogs with them. The anti dog laws are stupid laws anyway. In France, people take their dogs everywhere. We just have too many laws in the U.S. because a lot of people are greedy and try to sue everyone.

Submitted by Signted-Spouse | April 15 2013 |

I disagree wholeheartedly. My wife is blind and uses a guide dog. Every time an untrained dog behaves badly, that makes her life just that much more difficult. Again, as someone pointed out it makes people challenge her right to be anywhere, which is not right.

If your dog is not a service dog, don't try to pass it off as one just because you want Fido with you all the time.

As far as the fellow whose family members do this, remind them that they're violating federal standards and are hurting the blind and disabled community with their selfish actions. If you don't want your pet dog to ride cargo, take a road trip. That's what my family has done with pets all our lives, and thats what we did when her last guide dog retired from being a service animal.

Faking service dog credentials is not only classless, but a real testament to the morals and values of the people doing it.

Submitted by SD-Mom | January 6 2011 |

Catherine can't sue anyone, for anything, because the dog she has described in her comment does NOT meet the legal requirement for a service dog.

First, having bipolar disorder doesn't automatically qualify you as a disabled person. There is a legal definition for a psychiatric disability and that criteria must be met first, before you even qualify for a service dog. .

Second, a service dog has to be individually trained to perform specific tasks, that a disabled person cannot perform themselves and that mitigate the person's disability. Sitting on her lap and looking at her while she works her way through a panic attack does not meet that criteria. She could cower in a corner with a stuffed Pomeranian and there would be no difference in the animal's function during that process.

What Catherine has is an emotional support animal. It makes her feel better to carry the dog with her, which provides benefit to her, and nobody would argue that. But, ESAs are not protected under the law and they are not guaranteed access to public places.

IF you are going to declare that your animal is a service animal, it would behoove you to research the laws that apply to you and make sure you understand and comply with them. In Catherine's case, she's in just as much violation of the law as the other people identified in this article.

Submitted by OTPSDAL | January 22 2011 |

I read below someones statement negating Catherine's disability and Service Dog. If Bipolar Disorder disrupts normal everyday life, such as breathing sleeping working etc.,then she is disabled. If a dog with learned tasks or does work (innate alerting)that assists her with her disability, then she has a Service Dog. My dog is a PSD that is owner trained. He has been taught many tasks as well as having innate alerts. One is to always be with me. He knows it is his job to follow me where ever I go. That is just one of his tasks that I have taught him. This one task might not qualify him as a service dog but he has others that do. Catherine may have mentioned just one of the tasks. I am sure her dog knows many more.
Unless you know the whole situation, don't flame on someone trying to better themselves. Especially those requiring the use of a Psychiatric Service Dog.

Submitted by Papillon SD | February 2 2011 |

OTPSDAL I am sorry I agree and disagree with you. I am an SD user as well. I know and understand the effects of SD'd for mental disabilities but she (the lady with the pom) only says she feels better with the dog and it looks at her and makes noises while she goes through an attack. My dog alerts prior to an attack finds a safe place normally outside and so forth everything catherine says sounds like an ESA to me. I am sorry but it sounds like an esa that she is using as an SD it happens alot and my rico has to deal with the consequences of ESA's masqurading as SD's and it sounds like thats what this lasy is doing.

Submitted by Jen | June 11 2012 |

I disagree that the dog (Pomeranian) can only be an ESA. My dog can alert me before I have an "attack" of dizziness and muscle weakness but he will alert me as well, sometimes by physically touching me or making a noise at me, when I start to have a panic attack. Not before I have one, but when the attack has already begun its onset. By doing this he helps "bring me back" and redirect my attention from panicking to petting him (tactile stimulation) thus mitigating my disability and shortening the duration of my panic attack. Sometimes he can tell when I am just beginning to panic and shortens it so much that I hardly notice it.

So yes, it is perfectly possible the dog is an actual service dog. I do not know how the dog behaved in general, so I can't know whether or not the dog is a legitimate service dog, but it is certainly possible.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 21 2011 |

Sorry to revive this old topic, but I felt I had something to add that wasn't being explicitly discussed much. The issue is this: When a person passes their dog off as a service dog when it, in fact, does not meet the legal definition of a service dog (which by the way is quite liberal), they are not just beating the system. That is, they are not sticking it to the man - they are sticking to disabled people who genuinely rely on their service animals.

The issue is not that that they are cheating the system to protect their pet. I don't know of any service dog handler that really doesn't understand why a pet owner would want to do so. The problem is that the victims of this crime (and yes it is a crime) are people with physical disabilities for which they require a service dog.

This is what makes it a selfish act. It is not an innocent "victimless" crime - a white lie. The issue is that every time you falsely pass off your dog as a service dog, it throws up barriers for me. You are directly (though perhaps unwittingly) making my life more of a hassle - and believe me, I don't need the help.

This isn't some vague cause-and-effect. I see the direct effect quite frequently. An employee has an experience with a fake service dog so the next time they encounter a service dog (real or fake) they are that much more skeptical.

Have I ever been denied access? No, but I am challenged on occasion. Businesses have the right to ask questions. So, why should I care if someone asks me questions? Well, how would you like it (talking to the fake service dog crowd) if every time you wanted to just go to the grocery store, take a plane trip, or go to a restaurant that someone stopped you and challenged your right to be there. Ultimately, denial of legitimate access is very rare, but it's not great fun when you're on a date (for example) and the manager walks up and starts asking you questions about your disability because he has had experiences with people passing off their pets as service dogs.

Each time an employee has an encounter with a fake service dog (and yes, they know when you're lying), this brings us tangibly closer to the implementation of laws, regulations, and policies that make it harder for me to live my life without being treated as a second-class citizen.

And, don't get me started about what it's like to have someone's purse dog (being passed a "service dog") barking at my actual service dog and distracting her from her actual job.

Submitted by Anonymous | August 23 2011 |

I could not have put it better...barking "service dogs" make legitimate service dogs look less desirable and there WILL be a groundswell against those of us who need them.

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