JoAnna Lou
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Unethical or Responsible Pet Care?

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.


CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Anonymous | April 27 2013 |

I would rather travel with a pair of snarling dogs than with babies. Took a flight from Phoenix to DC and there were 10 babies on the plane. 10!! No sooner would one stop crying than the other started and then they would fill their diaper and the poor mother has no choice but to change the kid there in her lap or on the tray table and then there is the reeking diaper stinking up the plane. Until they start making baby-free and then family friendly (with a changing table and diaper genie) flights I say let the dog ride in the cabin but make people buy a seat for anything too big to fit in a lap and maybe even ask owners to put diapers on their dogs just for sanitary reasons and maybe for the comfort of the dog too.

Submitted by Ronald Hofmeister | January 29 2013 |

Dear Sir,
I just wanted to commit on Fake Service Dogs. I lived in Honolulu, Hawaii up till 2011 & there were so many fake dog in Hawaii you couldn't believe it. I asked men & women at a Waikiki how they got the Fake Dogs they said go to the Dod Pound & get a Certain breeds of dogs which they knew. And then go Doctor Shopping & they gave me a list of Doctor's that would help me out I threw the paper away. The men told me go to those certain Doctor's & they would write you up letters the way you told the Doctor's what wording to put on there letterhead & they also said you will get a RX Prescription that says certain words for a Service Dog. It's like taking candy from a baby there are so many dishonest doctors in Hawaii. Also I witnessed in a Doctor's office a lady telling another lady how easy it to get her Fake Service Dog that lady gave me a piece of paper with a name & Telephone Number on it I just threw it away. I know her dog was a Fake Barking at people & jumping on people a trained service Dog wouldn't do that.she had the works on her fake dog the Harness With Handle & all the Patches sown on. The leather collars & leads that had engraved on them Service Dog. I know this is going on all over the country but any place is scared of people using the ADA Law thrown up in there faces. I just wanted to get my 2 cents worth in on all this fraud going on everywhere.

Submitted by Alexis Grilliot | February 18 2014 |

I have an American Staffordshire terrier (pitbull) as a service animal for ptsd and anxiety. If i didnt have her i would literally not be able to even do the basic grocery shopping without having a panic attack in the parking lot. It took me a very long time to be able to have my service dog trained and me approved by the doctors so we could be legitimate. I cant stand going to the store and seeing fake service dogs act out and go after mine. My opinion, no one should ever fake a service animal. I get questioned all the time even when my service dog wears her vest and her tags. Fake service dogs make it so hard for people with real ones.

Submitted by Ann | July 30 2014 |

I require a service dog for PTSD and anxiety, but don't have the money to see a psychologist for the minimum requirement to verify my claim (even though I have had two psychologists tell me they believe it would greatly benefit by a service dog, and I even have one trained. But because of so many people "faking" service dogs, I can't get qualified.
They actually offered that instead of service dog, which would take two years to qualify, I could get a script for marijuana THAT DAY (I turned it down). It's easier to get drugs than a psychological service dog.


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