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?

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


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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!


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?

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.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 26 2011 |

The law states you do NOT need your service dog certified. Yet some guidelines stipulate your dog must have an identification. Not to be FAKE but to identify to bystanders that this is a needed convenience not just someones pet. Because you WILL get some idiot trying to bring his rambunctious mongrel onto a plane. Somepeople need to SEE an identifier becasue they are incapable of assuming that a dog in a strange place is probably "needed".

Submitted by Anonymous | April 22 2011 |

Give me a break people!... the Law does state that you do NOT need to have your dog reistered/certified. And just because you have a "real disability doesn't mean you are not going to be allowed to have your sd's anymore I just can't believe how upset people are about this... My do is a companion dog and I have said that manytimes to get into places. so f you for being such haters! cry babies who cares if someone pretends I really don't see it affecting anything at all~!

Submitted by Anonymous | August 21 2011 |

You may feel differently if you or someone you know is bitten by an unsocialized, untrained dog that someone brings into public against the law. Without laws, what would stop everyone from bringing any dog at any time into any establishment? You might get a little irritated by a dog peeing on the floor while you are trying to eat! Dogs are pets, even companion dogs, and belong at home unless trained to perform a task for someone with a legitimate disability. Even then, there are rules for the comfort and safety of society.

Submitted by Anonymous | April 27 2013 |

How is a dog peeing or pooing or barking or whatever any different from a baby crying or filling its diaper while you try to eat? I have pet dogs I take with me places. I don't take them inside places that don't allow dogs. But we go to restaurants and sit on the patio, we go to the nursery and other dog friendly shops and they are not anything but quiet and ignore strangers. My dogs are pet dogs and they are well trained. Maybe instead of the fake service dogs places need to simply start allowing pet dogs with the behavior exception. Then a bad dog could be easily asked to leave since people would not have to pretend their pet is a service dog. Obviously many people would like to take their dogs with them everyplace, and many many dogs are very good and would go anyplace and be good. So why not simply start making more places pet dog accessible and prevent fake service dogs via access for all.

Submitted by Anonymous | April 25 2011 |

I use a "Toy Poodle" for "Seizure Alert" ( have always been Petrified of large dogs)..when traveling she is in a Soft Carrier... She works great when the Time Arises! I keep her in a soft carrier when shopping,etc.I feel she is for My Needs and Not for peoples Oh's and Ah's. and I DO Love her very much, but the soft carrier keep her from people pettings..She is VERY Quiet, unless working, and most dont even realize she is with me.. I don't resent being asked IF she is a Service Dog..it helps Seperate the FAKE SD who
can DISTRACT in a place of business, usually with their BARKING !
recently encountered a man and Pit Bull in grocery store, he had Service Dog tag..and the dog was WALKING HIM around the store.
The man was Struggling to hold the dog back.. That was obiviously FAKE !

Submitted by Anonymous | June 10 2011 |

just returned from a trip to Europe with my dog, who flew in the cabin with me as my service dog. I don't have to prove to anyone, or provide any documentation to anyone,period! about why I consider my dog a service dog. I am not required or obligated to discuss my personal life or medical condition with anyone. I do agree that people who fly show dogs as service dogs are seriously creepy, and I do believe it is unethical to pass off a pet as a service dog to cheat the airlines. But it was my impression, as a previous poster said, it's really not all that common. The desk personnel at the airline I flew on hardly knew what to do when i presented myself and my dog for check in. I had made reservations for him well in advance, and everything went very smoothly. I did my homework, looked up al I needed to know from the ADA and the airlines website, and was totally in compliance with the laws. But I won't be bullied into having to justify my personal life to anyone. My dog helps me in many ways to live a happy and healthy life, which is what a service dog does for anyone, and I am not obligated to explain further.

Submitted by Anonymous | August 21 2011 |

It seems that you would be proud to let people know what kinds of tasks your dog can do for you. You do not have to go around telling people what your disorders are, but you can brag about how your dog is trained to perform specific tasks for you (which is required to be a true service dog). Consider it a compliment when people want to know more about your dog and why you have him. People get suspicious if they ask questions and you refuse to answer. While it is not legal for a place of business to ask about your disorders, they can legally ask what tasks the dog is trained to perform and you need to be able to answer honestly. If he just makes you feel good and comforts you, he is not a service dog, but rather a therapy dog and does not qualify for public access.

Submitted by Anonymous | January 8 2013 |

This is my first time on a flight and I plan on bring my ESA Dog.... That means he is an Emotional Support Animal... NOT A THERAPY DOG!!! My dog is trained to keep me from loosing it in public... before him I was unable to go to any store, I would drive miles just to go to the same gas station. If I was at the gas station and someone started taking to me I will have to run out and hide in my car till I could being myself to go back inside. I lived most of my life alone in my house. Thanks to my ESA Dog I am now able to shop at Walmart and even go to the mall.

ESA Dogs do not have all the rights of a service dog and ESA dogs do not have to have any training for a specific task, just the fact that the dog is there helps you function in the world.

However with all this said I did put my ESA Dog thru almost a year of training and have brought him to tons of places to learn how to react to differnt events. People ask me alot what he is used for and I always explain but it always makes me feel like something is wronge with me because I need an ESA Dog. I like the fact that when they see his badge they usually just state that he is a nice looking dog and that they love his jackets. My ESA Dog is a Chinese Crested(hairless).

My point is that Therapy dogs are not the same as ESA dogs, and should not be dismissed as a type of Service Dog.

Submitted by reine adelaide | August 9 2011 |

The Bigger Issue

With little exception dogs/animals are considered property and have no legal rights--and globally there are virtually no exceptions. Because of our inability or lack of desire to accommodate other animals, they are the ones who suffer most because of our limitations.

Legally and as stated in the article, any dog's companion must simply state that it is a service animal. And, fortunately at this time, no "proof" is necessary, (making the vest unnecessary, a waste of money and insulting to people with disabilities). This lack of proof/legal limitations actually allows us the freedom to be accompanied and loved by beings most of us consider family. And for many of us, these beings could be the extent of our family.

Perhaps people with disabilities should have the final say regarding the definition of service animals, however, EVERYONE would benefit greatly from animals having a bigger presence in society. Obviously, dogs who would otherwise be left in cars or home alone all day, would welcome the freedom. But without a doubt, OUR animal need for animal contact is undeniable, desirable and even necessary.

(And for those who do not wish to associate with certain animals; they don't have to. Even large animals can be kept well within a six foot radius of personal space. And there are already laws in place that protect people from aggressive or unleashed animals--that's nothing new.)

As to "The legitimacy of all service animals comes into question when people try to pass off their dogs as service animals" is a curious concern because if you are a person with a disability why would you assume that you may not be accompanied by your service animal? These limitations are generated by the fear of losing WELL ESTABLISHED LEGAL RIGHTS and there is no basis for that whatsoever. As a matter of fact, the more visible and accepted animals are in every facet of daily life only strengthens the status and legitimacy of ALL animal presence.

Here we have a personal freedom that brings incalculable happiness and health benefits to society and too often, especially as americans, we are ready to criticize, regulate and limit our/animals freedoms because of fear. My hope is that we all can celebrate and promote the inclusion of all animals in our human society and learn to respect that they have as much right to exist here as we do.

We tend to measure fairness and legislate according to our rights when the much bigger issue is the cessation and relief of suffering for all beings. No one will ever convince me that animals do not suffer; and suffer as greatly as we do. I believe that we humans are bound by our privilege and resources to care and provide for the live's of the animals we affect so profoundly. "The measure of society is how it treats it's poor, it's wretched, those yearning to be free…"

Submitted by Beltrani | September 22 2011 |

I was on a flight from SanFran to New York in Business Class. The woman next to me had a Standard Poodle and across the aisle was a Jack Russell. The Jack Russell barked and snarled the whole flight which caused the Standard Poodle to whimper, then pee, then poop. I'm not sure what the disability of either of the owners was - but heard both whispering to their traveling companions about "getting caught". I paid several thousand dollars for the flight and wound up in doggy hades because these dogs were obviously not trained to behave properly. I've been on many flights and see more an more service dogs. It's not about the rights of the dog owners, it's about common courtesy. Service dogs are specially trained animals that don't often stress out in strange situations. People who abuse the system will cause the demise of it for everyone.


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